The Sydney band's second album embraces chunky guitar hooks, but are they more pop than punk?
5 Seconds of Summer – 5SOS for short – landed a record deal in 2012 after racking up millions of YouTube views with covers of pop hits by Ed Sheeran, Chris Brown and Jason Derulo. Two years later, having expanded their fanbase by touring extensively with One Direction, the Sydney four-piece topped the US albums chart with their self-titled debut (Lana Del Rey’s ‘Ultraviolence’ kept it from top spot here). Its biggest hit ‘She Looks So Perfect’ featured a lyrical hook that almost felt focus-grouped to knowing teen-pop perfection: “You look so perfect standing there / In my American Apparel underwear”.
But is it possible to dismiss 5SOS as just another boyband? Like Busted and McFly, these guys play their own instruments, but unlike Busted and McFly, they’ve underlined their pop-punk credentials by recruiting their heroes as co-writers. Scan this second album’s songwriting credits and you’ll spot members of Good Charlotte, All Time Low and Evanescence (remember them?). 5SOS even wrote some recent B-sides with Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley. Producer John Feldmann fronts veteran LA ska punks Goldfinger and has recorded many of 5SOS’ heroes, Good Charlotte included.
Perhaps inevitably, ‘Sounds Good Feels Good’ doesn’t always wear its influences lightly. My Chemical Romance fans have accused the album’s lead single ‘She’s Kinda Hot’ of ripping off the band’s 2007 hit ‘Teenagers’, while a track called ‘Permanent Vacation’ borrows the drum beat from Green Day’s ‘Holiday’. But elsewhere, 5 Seconds of Summer hint they’re capable of writing super-catchy tunes of their own. Uptempo pair ‘Money’ and ‘Fly Away’ have chunky guitar hooks, while the choruses of more subdued tunes like ‘Airplanes’ and ‘Jet Black Heart’ are precision tooled for arena sing-alongs.
‘Sounds Good Feels Good’ is obviously more pop than punk – the slick production is peppered with unnecessary vocal overdubs and the album’s softest ballad, ‘San Francisco’, sounds like One Direction. Cynics will also sneer at some clunky lyrics – “I want to feel your love like the weather, all over me” they sing on ‘Vapor’ – but then again, there’s plenty here for the band’s teenage fans to relate to. Within the first four songs, 5SOS shout out underachievers, college dropouts and kids battling low self-esteem. They do so with winning sincerity, but even that can’t quite make up for the record’s derivative sound.
Director: John Feldmann
Record label: Capitol
Release date: 23 Oct, 2015