When did Madonna start doing post-hardcore?
That was the first thought that came to mind when listening to Feel, the latest release from Orlando based Sleeping With Sirens. Their 3rd LP finds the band bringing even more high energy pop elements into their sound. The keyboards and breakdowns have taken a back seat to more radio friendly sensibilities. It begs the question though, will this help to bring in new fans or alienate their existing ones?
Starting out the title track ‘Feel’, the energy on this album is high level. Knowing the band from their previous work, I kept waiting for the breakdown, screaming or synth to kick in, I was shocked when none of the three really happened. Vocalist Kellin Quinn and company are quick to showcase a different sound and in earnest, it is rather effective bubble gum radio pop-punk. Safe to say for fans of the band that the more “classic” elements return quickly on the second track into the release. ‘Here We Go’ is more in line with the usual Rise Records lot of recording artists and I expected the rest of the album to follow similar fashion. Again, I was surprised when the next song returned to the more 90’s pop oriented sound, again lacking any breakdowns or screaming (barring a little hash vocals towards the very end of the track) ‘Free Now’ culminates not with a clichéd breakdown, but a swelling vocal piece that suits the track quite well.
When the third track opened in similar fashion to ‘Feel’ and ‘Free Now’ I was thinking that this was going to be the direction for the band. Sadly, that theory was proven wrong halfway through the track. There are three total guest appearances on Feel and Bad Boy records artist MGK (Machine Gun Kelly) is up first, turning a halfway decent song into something much less so. Other appearances from Shayley Bourget (formerly Of Mice and Men), Fronz (ATTILA) and Matty Mullins (Memphis May Fire) are less offensive, but ultimately unnecessary. The core unit of the band does a great job throughout and throw some great riffs into the mix. The opening salvo of ‘The Best There Ever Was’ is a prime example and fans of the band will find this track to be the most in line with their older work. Kellin Quinn (vocals) continues to be the polarizing aspect and highlight of the band. His range is excellent and the production here is done well. Returning members Justin Hills (bass), Jesee Lawson (guitar), Jack Fowler (lead) and Gabe Barham (drums) are a cohesive unit and while the songs on the album may be polarizing one cannot take away from their skill and ability.
Feel is a record that seems to be written by a band in transition. The up and down nature can be jarring to the listener. The absolute highlights are the more radio oriented tracks (Feel, Sorry, Satellites) while the others feel almost like leftovers from a previous recording or song writing session. Stripping out those tracks, and releasing this as an EP would have been a bold move, but a smart one. Looking at the entire picture though the album firmly straddles the middle line. For every flash of excellence there is an equally annoying throwback to the past. Maybe it was to avoid alienating their existing fan base, but what could have been a great pop-punk release is instead a bit of a mess.
2. Here We Go
3. Free Now
4. Along (featuring MGK)
5. I’ll Take You There (featuring Shayley Bourget)
6. The Best There Ever Was (featuring Fronz)
9. Deja Vu
10. These Things I’ve Done