Album: Red, Green or Inbetween
There’s something delightful about the nostalgia that surrounds youthful ignorance. Even though I cringe at my years of adolescent directionlessness—the too-long hair, scene-kid fashion styles and stupidly profane band shirts—there is still a unique warmth that comes from looking back at the shitty decisions I made. Maybe it’s gratitude; a sort of “thank God I made it” that comes with a twinge of survivor’s guilt—or maybe it’s something different and more complicated. In any event, there’s no denying that mankind—especially the men and women involved in the pop-punk and heavy music scenes both—have an innate and nostalgic fascination with their past; and that’s why so many bands work so diligently at recapturing that sensation. Enter Liverpool’s latest pop-punk sensation, WSTR, and their debut full-length, Red, Green or Inbetween. The latest (and arguably some of the best) to work at creating a rose-tinted, wonderfully catchy display of youthfully ignorant pop-punk, WSTR are an incredible blessing in innocuous disguise. While one might be quick to write them off as “a carbon copy” of the UK’s poppy, punky superstars, Neck Deep, doing so would be shortsighted, as WSTR have a creative and contagious, infectiously uplifting listening experience in store for anyone with some good times to reflect on and a half-hour to spare.
WSTR keep things fast, fun and frantic throughout Red, Green or Inbetween—blaring away with all the care-free candor and unmatchable energy one might anticipate from a fiesty, up-and-coming band. Rather than try to appeal to the more mellow and moody aspects of contemporary pop-punk musicianship, they go directly for the throat, kicking off “Featherweight” with frenetic, driving drums that beat dancy, up-beat patterns into the listener’s head like a sledgehammer whaling on a roofing nail. Tracks like the rip-roaring “Gobshite” continue this trend—packing a full song’s worth of pure adrenaline into nearly half a minute. The drumming throughout WSTR’s debut full-length offering is a constant barrage of catchy, fill-heavy and technically marvelous percussion, stopping at nothing to make every song engaging, working as an excellent foundation for Alex Tobijanski’s lound, punchy bass and guitarists Kieren Alder and Danny Swift’s blaring, raunchy fretwork. With Tobijanski holding down a bouncy, thick low end, Alder and Swift put the punk elements into WSTR’s Red, Green or Inbetween to a perfect tee. “Featherweight” is quick and catchy (“catchy” is a recurring theme throughout the album, if you haven’t picked up on that)–while songs like “Eastbound and Down” and “Punchline” see the duo working in more mellow moments to contrast their raucous, rampaging youthful onslaught throughout the remainder of the release. Meanwhile, the rip-roaring “Gobshite” is a straight-up epinephrine blast, dilating the listener’s blood vessels and sending their heart racing into overdrive with the brash, light-speed strumming of Alder and Swift laid overtop of Tobijanski’s tremendous bass and the entire album’s standout display of crashing, chaotic and frenzied drums.
With two-step and stage-five friendly portions aplenty throughout Red, Green or Inbetween, the only thing WSTR truly need is a voice that can keep up with lyrics that share the band’s knack for yester-year’s antics and shenanigans. Lo and behold, they have found it in frontman Sammy Clifford. Clifford’s voice soars, constantly suspended somewhere between a hoarse, pitched shout and a peppy, chipper sing-songy tone. Songs like “Gobshite” see him belting out line after line like a vocal machine gun, where ballad-tinted tracks “Eastbound and Down” or “Punchline” focus more on his true singing voice. Then, there are songs like “Featherweight” or “Penultimate” which see him straddling the line between the two with marked confidence—his voice unwavering as he shouts lyric and after lyric with enough of a singing undertone to keep things catchy. Clifford’s relatable lyrics and relentless voice are the source of much of WSTR’s appeal, but also open the band up to criticism—as there’s no denying the uncanny similarities between Clifford’s voice and lyrical content and that of Neck Deep’s Ben Barlow. At the end of the day, that isn’t anyone’s fault—and if anything, it means fans of Neck Deep will doubtlessly fall in love with WSTR.
Frankly, I don’t know how many more times you, the reader, want to hear me spout claims of WSTR’s adolescent exuberance and youthful, fever-dreamy and nostalgic warmth. The band are quick, catchy and fun—if you’re looking for more out of a young, bold up-and-coming pop punk act, I suggest you simply look elsewhere.
For Fans Of: Neck Deep, Blink-182, The Wonder Years, Carousel Kings
By: Connor Welsh