For the past 20 years, in their respective bands, Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus and All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth have written the soundtracks for generations of teenage heartbreak and youthful rebellion. But with Simple Creatures, they wanted to create outside of all that weight. It would have been easy for them to be the pop-punk supergroup that everyone expected, but where’s the fun in that?
Their first EP ‘Strange Love’ was a six-track burst of dirty guitars and grotty synths, as they created a world of – in their words – “trash pop”. Turning inward, the pair explored feelings of depression, loneliness and addiction without a sugary coating. Urgent, eclectic and with a basement intimacy, it proved there was more to Hoppus and Gaskarth than their greatest hits.
Their second EP ‘Everything Opposite’ continues down that gnarled, neon path. Still set in the shadows, still offering surprise and unexpected flair, it sees the world of Simple Creatures get weirder and more playful.
Opening track ‘Special’ is a big, ratty anthem of wanting to feel good, while glitching electronics drag the song between hope and despair. “I just want to fake my pain away,” Gaskarth promises, trying to paint a smile on. It’s an idea that threads itself through the record, as Simple Creatures wrestle with their own misery and the weight of sharing your soul with the world.
‘One Little Lie’ starts off deep in Blink-182 territory, with a Mark-led verse that sees him admit, “I live on the dark side,” but the track quickly erupts into a hand-clapping pop belter that’s worlds away from the day job – an impressive accomplishment, considering the breadth of Blink’s recent return-to-form album ‘Nine’.
‘Need Me’ is a swaying slice of atmospheric alt-pop that sees the band more open and vulnerable, talking directly to the camera. “I need the sound of a thousand voices singing back to feel at home,” admits Mark. Alex parries with, “There’s a spotlight calling me that I can’t live without,” before they both plead, “Tell me that you need me.”
This quietude is haunting, but it doesn’t last for long, as the grim fairy tale of ‘Wolf’ dances on the edge of chaos. Droning synth blasts tumble into Nine Inch Nails-inspired electronic breakdowns, while whispered doubts see the band ask, “Am I the boy who cried / Or am I the wolf?”
After four tracks that scratch at the walls, ‘NVM’ sees Simple Creatures looking outwards. “Everything is awful, but it’s only in my brain,” they both reason amid a joyous burst of optimism that’ll have you dancing on tables. Closing romp ‘Thanks, I Hate It’ is a tongue-in-cheek look at duo’s relationship with fans who’d rather they did more of the same: “I don’t owe you anything, but I’ll give you everything”. It’s self-aware and silly, sincere but with a wicked grin.
This band was created to explore things away from the legacies Alex Gaskarth and Mark Hoppus have created with Blink and All Time Low. Yet Simple Creatures are creating their own legacy very quickly, and ‘Everything Opposite’ underlines just how much daring freedom the duo have to play with.