British pop-punk band Boston Manor has definitely been doing some experimenting. By the sound of its newest album, Welcome to the Neighbourhood, which released last week, the band’s roots have taken a quick turn toward the post-hardcore genre.
The band, consisting of vocalist Henry Cox, lead guitarist Mike Cunniff, rhythm guitarist Ash Wilson, bassist Dan Cunniff and drummer Jordan Pugh, has come a long way from its debut album, Be Nothing. Now taking on a more aggressive feel, the group ditched the alt-rock in favor of some more intense misanthropic narratives and purposefully unsettling instrumentals.
“Welcome to the Neighbourhood,” the first track on the release, introduces listeners to the theme of the album, holding an unnerving mood with the mix of emo rock and electronic elements. The symphony of drum crashes and feedback-ridden instrumental bridges sounds like the song came straight off of someone’s Halloween party playlist –– in the best of ways. The lyrics paint an eerie picture of someone not being able to escape what’s holding them back, throwing out phrases such as “I’m sorry, but you’re never gonna get far” and “People from here never leave.”
The darkness of the lyrics doesn’t stop there. The following song on the tracklist, “Flower in Your Dustbin,” paints a picture of someone being the beauty in someone else’s trash, covered in pesticides and unable to live. Lines such as “I threw up blood in the fountain of youth” and “I take my meds, I live through my phone” describe an incredibly pessimistic view of adolescent culture in the modern era.
Upon listening to “Funeral Party,” anyone who was in the angst-abundant scene in middle school quickly realizes that Boston Manor sounds exactly like early My Chemical Romance. Are listeners surprised by the switch from pop punk to straight-up emo? Yes. Are they disappointed? Absolutely not. Among the echoing background vocals, occasional screaming and heavy bass, the Gerard Way vibes are alive and real.
The speed of these first few songs is brought down by “Bad Machine,” which begins with a soft but intimidating acoustic vocal intro. Cox’s voice is so smooth, suddenly blending with the heavy guitar and drums that quickly interrupt the quiet moment. This song is an attractive dynamic for listeners who might welcome an acoustic break from listening to solely heavy punk. It offers the occasional beautiful instrumentals throughout the song to build up to loud choruses.
Welcome to the Neighbourhood ends on a bit of a tear-jerking tone with “The Day That I Ruined Your Life.” Pulling from a 1990s grunge influence, the band gets raw in strained vocals and expressive instrumental builds. The album tapers off into a sad guitar melody, ending the journey in a rather somber manner.
One of the best features of the album is the fact that, if you listen to the album in order, the songs flow together as one cohesive piece of music. Yes, individually, these songs are a solid grouping of emo feels and hostile guitar riffs. Played in uninterrupted order, however, the sound transcends the bounds of edgy. The story holds a cohesive element kept together by a lone echo or a moment of silence to blur the lines of when songs start and end.
Throughout most of the album, the theme of feeling trapped is heavy in the lyrics as well as the overall mood of the instrumentals. Whether it’s feeling trapped in addiction, in a place or with a person, the songs on this compilation address a range of tensions. The creepy, atmospheric blaring of beats sounds almost like an alarm, as if someone is actively keeping listeners from leaving silently.
Sure, Boston Manor sings about blood, death, being scared and hating people quite often, but it’s still a good time on Welcome to the Neighbourhood. If pure aggressiveness is what you’re looking for at this time of year, or if you want a band that sounds vaguely like MCR to fulfill your impossible dreams of that ever coming back, look no further.