For some, Patty Walters, the As It Is frontman is like the Joffrey Baratheon of pop-punk: a pretty boy imposter with no real claim to the throne. But love or hate the Brighton quintet, they are probably going to be around for a while if their sophomore album okay. is anything to go by.
It’s catchy, hook-laden and is arguably more pop than punk, but there’s an irrepressible formula that has already bought them a loyal following and is about to secure them lots more.
In some ways, this is how it would sound if Disney were to do a pop-punk album: it’s just so perky and squeaky clean. However on closer listening there’s a deliciously subversive angle to this record that has themes of depression and vulnerability at its core: hence the title okay., as in it’s OK to not be okay.
Once you unlock this ambiguous rebelliousness, the record instantly becomes a lot more fun. They potentially spread themselves too thinly over too many tracks (eleven) and may have been better focussing on their strongest elements and really nailing them, but you’ve got to give them credit for experimenting with different sounds. It’s certainly full of surprises but finds its stride in the second half when a bit more grit and bravery counter the pop tart shine of the first half of the record.
If your first track is where you set your stall out, Pretty Little Distance is a strong start in terms of communicating your intentions. It’s catchy pop and a bit too Glee club for my tastes, but fans will be pleased with its effusive bounciness.
Next up is the title track okay, and if its gloss and polish is too sickly sweet for you, the following track Hey Rachel may have you reaching for the insulin to counter that sugar overdose. But if you can hold out until the second half then you’ll be rewarded with a darker, more complex story, more at home with itself and better able to reflect its lyrical content.
They find their stride with Patchwork Love and courageously experiment with a little bit of harmonica and piano. No Way Out is nice and punchy, showcasing their capacity for grit and anger; while for me the best track here is Austen.
I liked the guitars and vocals on Until I Return and The Coast Is Where Home Is. So much so that I’ll forgive them for Soap whose verse can only be described as ‘a bit spooky’ like a Halloween song in an American teen movie. I’m sorry, I just can’t get that notion out of my head, although the chorus is pretty bloody ace, to be fair.
So this is super catchy pop-punk. Many will devour it because it’s polished, full of emotion and as my ten-year old niece remarked “it sounds like nice party music”. That speaks for itself, right?
These lads are poised for big things with numerous plaudits and decent billing at festivals already. I don’t think they’re going away any time soon and I applaud them for fronting out themes of mental health and emotional wellbeing. So good luck boys. I think you will make lots of people very happy: including on playlists for pre-teen parties. You might even help some people feel less sad and alone if they’re going through an unhappy time by tuning in to the message at the core of this record.
This is sticky music. It’s catchiness get in your head. Within a couple of listens, I was already waking up with some of these tunes buzzing around my head and it keeps improving with each listen. Good work fellas. Fearless Records are on to a winner with you.