Sound — 7
If anyone's looking for another fact to file away into the "shit that makes me feel old" cabinet, this is the year that New Found Glory turns 20 years old. In those two decades, New Found Glory have steadily built their catalog as being one of the most fundamental bands for the pop punk genre, although part of that needs to take in account the alt rock pivot they attempted with 2006's "Coming Home" (or rather, were pressured into by the major label they were signed to), which made for an undesirable change of pace for the band and their fanbase. Because of that, they leapt strongly back into the arms of their beloved genre, signing with Epitaph to release 2009's "Not Without A Fight" and 2011's "Radiosurgery," which were both as true to pop punk form as one could get. However, founding member Steve Klein would leave the band a couple years after its release over personal differences, with reports of felonious activity in Klein's life surfacing just a year later.
While New Found Glory's pop punk style still went strong in 2014's "Resurrection," the band's first album with Hopeless Records, New Found Glory show a desire to bring more to the table than just another dose of pop punk in their ninth album, "Makes Me Sick." From the start, it feels like business as usual, with songs like "Your Jokes Aren't Funny," "Party On Apocalypse," and "Happy Being Miserable" being all about the power chords, bouncy rhythms, and the secret-sauce vocal harmonies of frontman Jordan Pundik and lead guitarist Chad Gilbert, but more often than not, New Found Glory put new sonic features atop their pop punk framework.
Some of this is simply cosmetic, like the keyboards that provide some more melodic shine in "Say It Don't Spray It," "Barbed Wire," and "The Cheapest Thrill," but other songs show the band crossing over into an alt rock genre, similarly as they did in their 2006 album, "Coming Home." The tight rhythms and sparkly synths in "Call Me Anti-Social" tout a new wave/pop punk hybrid similar to that heard in Blink-182's "Neighborhoods" and Paramore's "Riot," the tropical percussion and groovy bass that build "The Sound Of Two Voices" easily weaves a beach rock vibe (although it teeters on the brink of hokey), and the feel-good piano chords that power the main riff of "Blurred Vision" sounds like New Found Glory trying to emulate early-era Coldplay.
Lyrics — 7
Klein may have been the chief lyricist for every New Found Glory album he was a part of, but the band's lyrical matter hasn't noticeably faltered after Klein's departure. And while cases can be made about the prickly lyrical output in the previous "Resurrection" being an airing out of grievances against Klein, their lyrics in "Makes Me Sick" maintain an ornery tone, but aim it in a more general direction of critiquing the modern world and its culture. Pundik goes from flaming a social media generation for its passive-aggressive cattiness in "Call Me Anti-Social" ("It's a barren land, but they all throw shade / I can't make peace, post-modern age") and its superficial profundity in "The Sound Of Two Voices" ("You think you're inspiring / Posting slogans on a photo of the sky"), to shaking his head at the youth beholden to shallow hedonism in "Party On Apocalypse" ("That 'you only live once' way of thinking / Is so twisted, are you living or just wasted?"), and once again, jabbing at pop punk upstarts for letting their early success go to their heads in "Say It Don't Spray It" ("At your age, I don't see bags yet under your eyes / You haven't reached the hardest part / Who are you to make demands?").
While those critiques are fair enough, the extensive focus on that in "Makes Me Sick" arguably paints New Found Glory in a "get off my lawn" disposition that clashes with their style of music that's embedded in youth culture. In other cases, Pundik tries to look at the glass as half full, and while lyrics about overcoming toxic relationships in "Your Jokes Aren't Funny" and "Happy Being Miserable" is meat-and-potatoes subject matter for pop punk, Pundik also gets more personal in this vein, heard in the emotional rehab of "Blurred Vision" ("I'm so ashamed of all the time that it took / For me to open my eyes / You brought me back when I was lost and confused"), the tough-as-nails connection in "Barbed Wire" ("We slept in the gutter / We rolled around in broken glass / Self-inflicted, but we had each other"), and the cheeky simplicity of "Short And Sweet" ("Not trying to overcompensate with savvy lines / It's as real as I can get / I don't deserve someone as beautiful as you").
Overall Impression — 7
With nine albums in and showing no signs of stopping, it's only natural that New Found Glory reach for more than the expected in "Makes Me Sick." Along with being a necessary move to zig-zag from the straight punk path traveled in their past three albums, the appeal to variance in "Makes Me Sick" offers a nice contrast to the heavy, rollicking punk energy of the band's previous album. Some moments may be too deviated for some pop punk fanatics, but all in all, "Makes Me Sick" does a better job crossing over New Found Glory's pop punk base with other styles than "Coming Home" did.