The Flatliners

Inviting Light

Written by: PP on 27/04/2017 23:40:57

Although no strangers to stylistic evolution by The Flatliners, their fifth album "Inviting Light" is a difficult one to swallow for their fan base. Those that cried sellout already after the band abandoned skacore in favour of melodic punk rock on sophomore album "The Great Awake" are certainly a lost cause, but here the shift in soundscape is radical enough to prompt similar calls from fans that have stuck around and loved records like "Cavalcade" and "Dead Language". These were albums where the band perfected the art of evolving the classic Fat Wreck Chords punk rock so that it became suitable for main stage appearances through simply brilliant songwriting that converted tightly played punk rock songs into sounding bigger and more far-reaching than the majority of their peers.

On "Inviting Light", punk rock has been all but shoved aside to a minimal role as mere undertones at best to a sound that's now best described as alternative rock. The throaty "Yeahhhhhh I'll hang my heeaaad" opening to "Hang My Head" early on is great, suggesting it could've been on "Dead Language" albeit as one of the slower tracks on the record, but the rest of the material is slower, more mellow, much cleaner, and far too produced in an attempt to reach even wider audiences than in the past. Chris Cresswell's vocals have changed radically, now drenched in weird reverb effect that makes his singing sound artificial, at least from a punk rock perspective. There are moments where he reverts to his charismatically raspy self, such as on "Wedding Speech", but they are in the minority. "Mammals", for instance, is infectiously catchy but the polish on the track is undeniable. That being said, the "blue in the face" sing-along part is instant, and in general, the record has no shortage of catchy choruses or memorable moments.

Let's take closing track "No Roads", for instance. The track is from a different planet to past Flatliners songs given its casual tempo and lofty melodies, but removing it from that context, it's an excellent song and from a strictly songwriting perspective by far the most ambitious one The Flatliners have written to date. As an example, my non-punk rock girlfriend is no fan of their old material despite my tireless attempts to sneak it on the playlist every now and then, but the moment I played this song, she instantly asked who it was because it apparently sounded great. Same with "Indoors", which is equally majestic in its balladic alternative rock style, which underlines the objective here: a departure from straight up punk rock in the hopes of reaching bigger audiences through a more radio-friendly and far-reaching sound designed for larger stages. In other words, a very similar evolution as The Gaslight Anthem did from "The '59 Sound" to "American Slang" a few years ago, or The Menzingers from "On The Impossible Past" to "After The Party" earlier this year.

Typically, that's something I heftily criticize in a review. After all, why change the sound so radically when you have something so good going for you? "Inviting Light" makes such critique difficult though by being a solid album all things considered. And since it's been four years since the last Flatliners album, it's easy to listen to the record and be lulled into thinking "this is how they've always sounded like and the songs sound good". So what's the problem? Aside from the uneventful "Unconditional Love" and the frankly boring "Chameleon Skin", it becomes glaringly obvious if you go back to "Dead Language" or god forbid any of the previous albums. While "Inviting Light" is a solid alternative rock album, it simply stands no comparison to the past three albums that have become punk rock staples over the years. Lacking in energy, raw passion (ironed out by the polished production), and especially in songs that are just ridiculously good, "Inviting Light" suddenly sounds lackluster in comparison. That said, it's a solid record for just about any band, but in the context of The Flatliners discography, it does feel a tad disappointing.

7

Download: Mammals, Hang My Head, No Roads, Human Party Trick, Indoors
For the fans of: The Menzingers, The Gaslight Anthem, Dead To Me, American Steel
Listen: Facebook

Release date 07.04.2017
Rise Records

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