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Album Review: 5 Seconds of Summer – Sounds Good Feels Good

Aussie rockers 5 Seconds of Summer are back on the New Broken Scene (/end horrible puns) with their latest studio album, Sounds Good Feels Good. From a Target exclusive edition with 19 tracks, to the regular Deluxe with 17, even the standard release has a hefty 14 tracks featuring the singles ‘She’s Kinda Hot’ and ‘Hey Everybody!’ and boasting co-writers from Good Charlotte, Evanescence, All Time Low and Bonnie McKee. Like the two singles have suggested, the band are ready to shed the pop image they’ve gotten from supporting One Direction and are ready to break into the pop/punk rock sound that is more authentic to them as a whole.

It’s worth noting that all the tracks but ‘Permanent Vacation’ on the deluxe Target edition (and, of course, the standard/deluxe editions,) have one band member or another taking the main writing credit. In an industry where writing credits can be tacked on for simply changing a word or two, it’s nice to see that Sounds Good Feels Good has had the heft of its message written by the band members themselves, with the more experienced and veteran musicians that have helped them out on the tracks acting as counsel rather than taking the wheel entirely.

‘Money’, written by Luke and Ashton with Good Charlotte’s Joel and Benji Madden, opens the record and quickly establishes the tone 5SOS want for their new album. They’re not like their contemporaries in One Direction; the band’s influences are much more punk and rock. Lead single ‘She’s Kinda Hot’ sees Michael and Ashton working again with the Madden brothers (who contribute to the first four tracks) and the album’s producer John Feldmann.

Second single, ‘Hey Everybody!’ samples Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’, and while at first listen it sounds like a poor man’s ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’, the track is a grower when given the chance.

The only track not written mainly by one of the band members– Luke and Michael did write on it with the Madden brothers, but the main credit goes to Mike Green– ‘Permanent Vacation’, is upbeat and catchy, and probably one of Sounds Good Feels Good‘s more pop-py sounding tracks. It’s no wonder this is one of the songs the band performed during their Rock Out With Your Socks Out Tour – it fits nicely with their debut eponymous record and bridges the gap to Sounds Good Feels Good, being at home with both records and out of place on neither.

‘Jet Black Heart’ finds Sounds Good Feels Good taking a darker turn, so it’s no surprise the track was co-written with David Hodges of Evanescence. This was a promotional single released before the album and for good reason: it is one of the standouts on the record and does a stellar job of proving 5 Seconds of Summer are adept at transitioning from sugary pop tracks to more serious and meaningful songs.

All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth writes with the band for ‘Catch Fire’ which feels awkwardly out of place in the rest of 5 Seconds of Summer’s catalog, teetering a tightrope of mushy romanticism and soft-rock and not finding its niche. Thankfully, the tension doesn’t last too long, with ‘Safety Pin’ being another highlight, with 5SOS’s signature sound, anthemic lyrics and perfect production that has an infectious beat to get stuck in your head. It’s a shame it’s hidden away in only the Deluxe editions; it has much more widespread potential and will probably end up being a fan favorite gem.

Jacob Kasher, the rapper who worked on chart-topping hits like Kesha’s ‘We R Who We R’, Cobra Starships’ ‘Good Girls Go Bad’, Kylie Minogue’s ‘Into The Blue’, and Fifth Harmony’s ‘Boss’ to name a few, co-writes on ‘Waste The Night’, which features all the elements to another smash. Despite its potential mainstream success, the song feels similarly to ‘Catch Fire’ in the sense that it sounds like 5SOS having a bit of growing pains, experimenting with different sounds and ultimately managing to sound nothing like themselves.

The band knows better than to experiment for any longer than a song or two, and songs like ‘Vapor’ and ‘Castaway’ get back on track. There’s nothing world changing about either song, but they are perfectly good as album tracks for hardcore fans to enjoy.

The Deluxe edition’s ‘The Girl Who Cried Wolf’ and ‘Broken Home’ are where they belong; they’re good tracks for dedicated fans to enjoy, and their darker lyric content will undoubtedly speak volumes to many of their fans going through adolescence, but they’re probably a bit too bit dark for casual listeners.

‘Fly Away’ is an upbeat, catchy track with single potential (although it was released as a grat-track back in August.) Tracks like this capture the essence of 5 Seconds of Summer and are a joy to listen to; the band is at its best when its carefree and having a bit of fun.

The next track, ‘Invisible’, proves that 5SOS are still formidable when it comes to more emotional songs. While ‘Invisible’ does, at times, feel a bit like typical ‘Woe is me, no one notices me enough’ teenage triteness, there are multiple layers to the song that can speak to fans at different places in their lives going through hard times. Of the more serious songs on the record, this is the best, and the instrumental ending is simply beautiful.

Michael Clifford is the only member of the band to write with John Feldmann on ‘Airplanes’, and the track serves as a good indication that the band is in good hands when Clifford is taking the lead. Lyrically imaginative and creative, ‘Airplanes’ stands out as a memorable and charming track. This is surely to be another fan favorite that will be amazing to witness live at one of the band’s Sounds Live Feels Live concerts.

‘San Francisco’ and ‘Outer Space/Carry On’ close the album’s standard and deluxe editions, leaving listeners with tracks that showcase the progression of their sound. The Target exclusives, ‘The Space Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ and ‘Story Of Another Us’ are worth the trip to your nearest Target; these aren’t the usual leftovers tacked onto a Target release in an effort to warrant a higher price tag. ‘The Space Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ will please the fans who love 5SOS’s more upbeat songs, and ‘Story Of Another Us’ will delight those who enjoy the band’s more pensive tracks.

Sounds Good Feels Good finds 5 Seconds of Summer experimenting with finding their perfect sound, and while it has a few aural missteps, the overall result is an album that established fans and new ones will enjoy. 5SOS will surely be getting some new fans with this record, ones that may have prematurely judged them as too manufactured and pop in the past. The band continues to follow its recipe for success, and while there’s nothing earth shattering about Sounds Good Feels Good, it delights fans with new music and serves its purpose of helping the band shed its image of being in One Direction’s shadow.

You can get the 19-track exclusive edition at Target, or find the regular deluxe edition on iTunes and wherever CDs are sold.

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Written by Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett is the creator and editor of POParazzi. He works primarily in Washington, DC. You can contact him at sam@poparazzi.org and visit his portfolio at sam-bennett.com.

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