The Front Bottoms – In Sickness & in Flames
Although it may be surprising, due to the relatable content in each album, The Front Bottoms do not know you. From subtly cussing someone in Peace Sign to getting high on LSD and saving a family in Tie Dye Dragon, there is something personal to everyone in their work. This year, The Front Bottoms return with In Sickness & in Flames, their most congenial release yet.
It begins with Everyone Blooms, which sets the theme. In fact, everything blooms, and the album blossoms into brilliance from the first note. Camouflage does the opposite of its title. It does not blend in, it stands out, and it’s immediately clear why this was chosen as the opening single. The track stands by the “sickness” part of the album’s title by going into lyrical detail of a mental breakdown, but the instrumentation allows it to appear summery, summoning the “flames”; it then rises as a highlight.
Jerk starts with surprising distortion of Brian Sella’s voice. This is the first indication of their new producer, Mike Sapone. Although their former producer Nick Furlong worked predominantly with electronic artists, there is even more of an electro influence here. Jerk manages to blend two distinctly different genres: indie-folk rock on Sella’s guitar with a disco beat in the background. This sounds like an unruly combination, but they make it seem natural.
Montgomery Forever is another number that reminds listeners why it was chosen as a single. Although the lyrics are repetitive (the “evers” could last forever), they are undoubtedly catchy. Along with Fairbanks, Alaska, which has names relating to specific locations, they could be applied to any place. The lyrics are nostalgic and reminiscent of a simpler time that everyone has surely experienced.
The Hard Way highlights Sella’s falsetto. His voice is almost whispery, yet it also sounds like he’s screaming. Equally loud guitars lead into Leaf Pile, a contrast to The Hard Way. It is energetic and violent, but the songs still manage to merge into each other. None of the pieces ends instantly, they all have outros, which fade away and transition perfectly into the intro of the next.
Love at First Sight opens in a non-Front-Bottom manner with high-pitched wailing that you’d expect from a boy band. Then it becomes one of their songs. Just like Jerk, these contrasting genres seem to fuse together. Bus Beat kicks off with almost bluesy guitars and spoken lyrics. It is another completely different sound to what we’re used to, but it still fits. Make Way closes off In Sickness & in Flames perfectly. It is soft, like a lullaby, allowing us to doze while still listening to the chorus in our dreams.
With how bleak 2020 has been thus far, this album is exactly what’s needed for the summer. It gives us a holiday to Montgomery, Fairbanks and back – a luxury that we can’t experience in real life.
Photo: Mark Jaworski
In Sickness & in Flames is released on 21st August 2020. For further information or to order the album visit The Front Bottoms’ website here.
Watch the video for Fairbanks, Alaska here: