Sound — 7
5 Seconds Of Summer have come back with yet another album, two years after their eponymous debut, and they've had some hits and misses with the album. "Sounds Good Feel Good" is the musical child of Luke Hemmings, Calum Hood, Michael Clifford and Ashton Irwin, aimed at lifting up the spirits of their fanbase. They had a tough job - how does a 'rock band' further affirm their genre whilst avoiding alienation? For the most part, 5SOS manages to dodge this.
The sound isn't pop as before... but it's not exactly rock either. It straddles that awkward genre of alternative rock and alternative pop, and honestly none of the songs are single-worthy. The boys introduce several new sounds to their songs, from the electronic blips of "Airplanes" to the 12 bar bluesy chords of "Permanent Vacation." These influences for the most part work. But when you write songs so close to the original you have to credit the songwriters then even that's a signal that you need to get more original.
All the boys' vocals are fairly mediocre in this record - I'm glad to see guitarist Michael Clifford shine a little bit more. Ever since his announcement of his mental health battles, it's clear that this album has really taken up a little space in his heart, and the passion can be heard in the record - and in arenas as well.
Overall, the sound is a little more inaccessible than their debut, but still catchy if you pay attention to it.
Lyrics — 6
01. "Money" - the opener of the album was definitely lacking... a lot. In terms of the sound, the verses really could have been a lot more better, as they sort of get lost instead of really being standout, high-quality verses we know 5SOS is capable of. The lyrics are another story. What exactly was the point of this entire song to the album? Perhaps I'm being a little dense but I can't quite see how the song fits in the album. Choice lyrics include "everyone's gonna go big tonight," which from a so called rock band is cringeworthy, and from any band at all is just weird. It's a glorious riot of sound - but a shambles of lyrics.
02. "She's Kinda Hot" - The first single of the album at least compensates for the shockingly empty opener by giving a really powerful message - those who are broken can still be ok. And what a message to send out to such a fanbase. I'm not a fan of the opening riff, to be fairly honest, and the little comments in the background fondly remind me of "Good Girls" from their debut. The growling, guzzling solo in the middle could have gone very wrong, but the boys narrowly avoid disaster. I still however think the opening verses could have been modified - there's something a little wrong with reducing girlfriends and shrinks to their appearance.
03. "Hey Everybody!" - this is where 5SOS get into a little tangle with Duran Duran and "Hungry Like the Wolf." This happened last album too, where they essentially copied Fall Out Boy's "Sugar We're Goin' Down" riff. Honestly, the melody is too close to Duran Duran's for me to even comment on. The chorus melody is pretty good though, and the production throughout the song is pretty good. The only other criticism I would have would be the lyric "She maxed her credit cards and don't got a job." 5SOS - using incorrect grammar and pulling an Ariana Grande will not score you any brownie points!
04. "Permanent Vacation" - One of the high points of the album is "Permanent Vacation," and I hope to see this at least as a single. Further developing this theme of mental health, 5SOS takes a dip into the rhyming dictionary. They did a fantastic job with the production, with the fantastic riff, the catchy chorus - and when it's performed live, it's an awesome sight to see the audience getting involved with the song. An energetic performance from the boys, however the vocals could have been less polished and raw and rough.
05. "Jet Black Heart" - Dipping into darker territory, Michael Clifford does an excellent job singing this song and really owns the song. The lyrics have also improved on this song, with the exception of the "I write with a poison pen." Anthemic and passionate, this is definitely material that shows the strengths of 5SOS - passion, pop melodies and punk attitudes. Again, the vocals were too slick for me to enjoy the song. The song cannot possibly capture the raw emotion seen in live performances, and although the slick production really worked in their favour on their debut, it really hinders them instead on this record.
06. "Catch Fire" - The march of the guitars and Irwin's drumming are the leading features of the song. They keep time and bring a sense of structure to the song. Strong lyrics include "Without you I'm nobody, killing time" and "I'm a fool in a one man show." The song falls kind of flat - it brings nothing really to the album instead of a few good sentences and a nice melody.
07. "Safety Pin" - This references two of their previous songs "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "Everything I Didn't Say," however interestingly was not written by them but their producer John Feldmann and Emily Warren. It's a great tale of two broken beings trying to piece together the scraps of soul they have left. The introduction is also a nice highlight of the song.
08. "Waste the Night" - Another mediocre love story by 5SOS. The verse was ok, the chorus got lost in repetition. Nothing more really to add.
09. "Vapor" - Instrumentally, this song adds more interest, opening with a breathy synth at the beginning which pulsates throughout the rest of the song. For a song called "Vapor," I was expecting more reverb and breathy vocals (but to be fair it is their song and not mine). The strings in the song feel awkward and unnecessary. Lyrically, the song could go to better places. "I'll take what you got, got, got/I know it's not a lot, lot, lot" is not exactly some of their best work. One of the highlights is Calum Hood's vocals towards the middle.
10. "Castaway" - Like "Waste the Night," I can't really find much on this song to comment on. Decent love story, decent melody. End of story.
11. "The Girl Who Cried Wolf" - the song opens up with Bastille-esque "eh-ohs." This song is much more softer, with more use of the string section. The production is better on this song, but like some of the other songs, this song doesn't really offer a lot to the album. This will be interesting to see performed live, I'll give it that.
12. "Broken Home" - This seems a little weird for boys coming from two-parent families to be singing (with the exception of Irwin), however Feldmann and The Madden Brothers did write the song, which definitely makes more sense. It will be a great song to resonate with their fanbase and makes for a really nice ballad, bringing a sense of maturity and emotion to the album.
13. "Fly Away" - great rock song, terrible lyrics. It sounds powerful, commanding, and feel like a good song to jump around to. It's a shame that it's ruined by the chorus - the chorus sounds cluttered and chunky, as if they're trying to squeeze in as many syllables as possible. It completely undermines the background of crunching guitars in the chorus, and the bullets of snare drums. The phrase "I wanna fly away tonight" even sounds awkward. If there was one redeeming lyric, it would be "I see the best of times in front of me," which will most likely make the rounds on social media.
14. "Invisible" - Much like Broken Home, this song was written by Feldmann and comes from his experiences, and much like Broken Home as well, the lyrics will resonate with their fanbase and go around social media. The breathy "who am I?" is a real high point, along with the lamenting strings. Instrumentally, the song really improves, and Hood's vocals stand out on the song.
15. "Airplanes" - The electronic blips and the dissonant guitar chords makes for a very, very awkward song, along with the chanting "ohs" and the backdrop of strings. Production really failed on this song, surprisingly, and feels like it just doesn't fit into the album.
16. "San Francisco" - A lot of things improve on this song - the instrumentation, the lyrics, the melodies. It's not a particularly standout song and there aren't many things to really comment on again.
17. "Outer Space/Carry On" - Hemmings' vocals really shine through, and it's not hard to see why he is such a talented singer. A 6 minute monster of a song, the boys really went for it in this song. Some choice lyrics include "You know it's gonna get better" and "Say a prayer for the broken bones." This combines the catchy hooks, the commanding drums, the chanting "whoas" and the strings into one great track. This will be interesting to see performed live as well, and ends the album on a nice note.
Overall Impression — 7
5SOS did well on this album, and there were definitely some good points in the album - the message, the vocals, the sound. But there were failures, too - from the awkward lyrics and production to the irrelevance of certain tracks. Standout tracks include "Permanent Vacation" and "Broken Home."
Overall, 5SOS has the utter potential to really make a huge difference, but ultimately they fall a little short on the album. They could do with pushing themselves musically, really being original and speaking more from their hearts instead of from a repeated record about love.