It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a band who could genuinely claim to be next in line to the pop punk throne. But Cinders new album Looking Forward To Looking Back definitely puts them in contention. The American group actually describe themselves as ‘rowdy acoustic pop’, but throughout this record I hear influences from some of pop punk’s big hitters.
Opening track ‘Tree House’ has all the hallmarks of a pop punk classic but with modern twists such as the keyboards, which bring some pop optimism to the track. In general, the instrumentation darts between playful, energetic verses and punchier half-time choruses, while the bridge/introduces a new motif and cleverly blends it with the existing chorus riff. The frantic, unpredictable nature is reminiscent of Modern Baseball.
The Modern Baseball influence continues on ’Never Wanna Go Home’, where the lyrics explore ideas of escapism, friendship and optimism. These are all topics I’ve heard sung a thousand times before, but not so earnestly since the days of early Fall Out Boy and The All-American Rejects.
There are a couple of tracks on Looking Forward To Looking Back which break from the pop punk mould. The first of those is ‘Illinois’ where the band channel their inner Arcade Fire to deliver a more sedate, relaxed track with an indie feel to it. It is nicely matched by ‘The Moon’, which is the most “mainstream” pop song on the album so far. It’s a piano led ballad which deals with loneliness and personal isolation with some lovely imagery.
We’re back to the pop punk masterclass by the time ‘Gigantic’ rolls around. The main melody played on the synth is one of the most persistent earworms of the year. You’ll be humming that one for weeks. It actually reminds me of Four Year Strong’s early records in the way the synth dances around whimsically. As the guitars peel away for the middle eight, leaving only drums and vocals, we enter peak pop punk mode. There’s so much youthful exuberance and passion, I can only imagine how much fun this song would be when performed live.
‘100 Foxes’ is a very self-assured, Kevin Devine-esque number which is effortless in every way. ‘Sleepwalking’ on the other hand is a track full of hustle and bustle. Summer vibes and energetic instrumentation are present in abundance. The lyrics are breathless, a whirlwind in sound which only stops for the occasional shouted “Or am I breaking through?” The album comes to a close with ‘Walls’ which follows the tried and tested pop punk album last track formula of dropping the tempo and volume for the first few minutes before crescendoing to a euphoric climax. It’s not a new trick, but it’s one Cinders pull off beautifully. Chelsey Harris’ soaring vocals are the glue that holds the track together just as every element seems to be exploding in different directions.
So are Cinders really the next rulers of the pop punk world? I think they have every right to be in the contest. They’re happy to honour what’s come before them in terms of style, instrumentation and ideology, but I think they’re also taking the genre in new directions. And that’s exciting – I don’t think albums like From Under The Cork Tree and Move Along would have the same impact today, pop punk needs to evolve to remain interesting. If this really is the future of the genre, then I am excited to see where it takes us. Long live Cinders.
Sounds Like… the next generation of pop punk heroes.