Monday, September 9, 2013

Album Review: Tonight Alive - The Other Side

Album Rating: B
I'm kind of hesitant to write a review for The Other Side because no matter how complex I make the album out to be, countless blogs will summarize the thing in two sentences "Poppy pop-punk with a serious knack for catchiness and fun. Jenna is hawt." Even so, the album deserves the attention of a full-fledged writeup because it's a great example of the phenomenon of female-fronted airwave-friendly pop-punk that isn't manufactured drivel. Of course, this isn't exactly new — Paramore does this, VersaEmerge (arguably) does this, and...shit, I'm out of examples. A necessary point to highlight with this, therefore, is just how alluring the music is. It's supremely easy to listen to, of course, but the hamminess and general malaise that plagues teeny-bopper pop-"punk" groups like Hey Monday and whatever other artists are selling CDs for Fueled by Ramen nowadays is almost totally absent from The Other Side (cheesy-ass piano intro to "Don't Wish" notwithstanding).

Though some punk purists would shudder at the notion, what's most important about Tonight Alive's most recent affair is that the music by and large is actually interesting. Earlier single "The Ocean" fits the bill perfectly for the well-constructed anthemic album opener with its stadium-filling lead guitar and vague, inoffensive lyrics about "facing your fears" (though some YouTube commenters would argue a more liberal interpretation about lead singer Jenna McDougall's period). And, though a song specifically designed to be anthemic can by nature not actually be anthemic, "The Ocean" comes surprisingly close. On the flip side of the spectrum, "Come Home" molds a major-keyed straight-ahead guitar backing and beat into a pop song that could go right on the radio and attract both the average listener and snobby music critics (myself included) thanks to its lighthearted, upbeat feel and catchy-ass structure.

The biggest downside of the album (and it's a substantial one) is that it lacks the charm of Tonight Alive's debut. What Are You So Scared Of? packed not only the punch of a pop-punk album with charisma and good song structure but also a fair bit of varied sound. There's nothing quite as far off the "oh-let's-put-power-chords-and-female-vocals-together" spectrum on The Other Side as there was on the previous outing — songs like "Safe and Sound" and "Amelia" aren't matched by anything new in their scope (however limited that may have been) or even how interesting and fresh they felt. However, The Other Side is still an excellent case of really poppy pop-punk that actually succeeds, thanks to its songwriting skills, charisma (cue inevitable bringing up of Jenna here) and the fact that it's freakin' fun. Elitist pop-punk fans who unnecessarily call out the pop side of the genre because they are disillusioned with the quality of such things won't have much ammo here — the album is airtight.


1. The Ocean
2. Don't Wish
3. Lonely Girl
4. Hell and Back
5. The Other Side
6. The Fire
7. Complexes
8. Come Home
9. Bathwater
10. No Different
11. Say Please
12. You Don't Owe Me Anything

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