The Vamps have finally grown up. Shattering their classic boy band image and emerging with a striking new alternative sound, the British pop band’s fifth studio album Cherry Blossom is easily their most personal and motivated record so far.
Rebirth is the thematic heart of Cherry Blossom, and The Vamps have indeed ventured from their comfort zone. Smoothly veering from a mainstream pop style, The Vamps demonstrate remarkable artistic maturity with this album. Lined with genuinity, charisma and intimacy, the band’s latest collection of songs indicates significant growth and budding talent. Though the record is far from polished, its palpable ambition makes it a successful mark on the band’s discography.
For the eight-year stretch of their career, The Vamps have relied heavily on collaborations to crank out gummy dance-pop songs aimed at charts — Matoma’s “All Night,” Martin Jensen’s “Middle of the Night” and Mike Perry’s “Hands,” to name a few. Cherry Blossom, on the other hand, still brims with enthusiasm while being beautifully bereft of generic electronic dance breaks.
At its best moments, the album shines with exuberance: An infectious piano riff takes “Married in Vegas” to thrilling new heights, and the high-energy “Nothing But You” efficiently builds momentum for a catchy but rudimentary chorus. The Vamps also find balance with “Better,” a pop song tinged with regret but sparkling with hope. As near pop perfection, these memorable songs are well-orchestrated bursts of energy that demonstrate what the band is capable of.
The album’s production is quite adventurous and dynamic, but not every risk pays off completely. Frequently characterized by trenchant synths and sharp instrumentation, the record can feel unnecessarily overwhelming at times. In the monotonous chorus of “Would You,” the sincere voice of lead singer Bradley Simpson gets buried underneath layers of wobbly, distorted synth, and he strains through the feverish intensity of “Chemicals.” Though they add relatively little emotional clarity to the album, gutsy songs such as these illustrate The Vamps experimenting with their production in a promising way.
The record’s softer ballads offer a break from such high energy, but they unintentionally weigh down Cherry Blossom as a whole. Muffled drums and rippling bass create a soothing atmosphere for the hushed ballad “Protocol,” but Simpson’s unusually breathy voice at the chorus doesn’t quite match the gentle instrumentation. In a similar manner, “Treading Water” is uplifted only by its acoustic guitar solo, and the song’s generic discussion of love and insecurity falls flat. These tracks, though saturated with sentiment, feel strangely disconnected from the rest of the lively album.
Although not every track approaches emotion with nuance, Cherry Blossom generally captures The Vamps’ blithe spirit. “Bitter,” though it falls back on basic lyricism, finds its heavy production elements stripped away to conclude on an ambient, almost acoustic version of the track. Here, The Vamps peel back their glittery boy band facade to offer a glimpse of candid cheer. This song’s flicker of sincerity burns out quickly, but it’s nevertheless a spark that reminds listeners of what the band has to offer.
It’s clear, however, that Cherry Blossom is best represented by its opening track “Glory Days.” Preceded by a sweet, twinkling interlude, the song overflows with positivity as an ode to living in the moment. Though it swiftly fades into repetition and isn’t quite as glorious as denoted, the longing in Simpson’s voice is palpable. The song — as well as the album as a whole — is a succinct glimmer of hope for The Vamps’ promising future.
32 minutes of bubbling energy and gentle honesty, Cherry Blossom truly marks a new, auspicious era for The Vamps. The band no longer relies on electronic choruses to carry their discography, and it’s unmistakable that the group has finally found personal meaning in their work. With more highs than lows, Cherry Blossom succeeds as a refreshing pop record that strives for light during dark times.
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