Take a look at the state of the world around you and it’s hard not to feel like we’re collectively headed towards our doom. We’re bombarded with some form of bad news every time we check our phone screens and the feelings that this conjures up can range from fear to despair to pure rage. What truly defines us though is the way in which we respond to this negativity and in the case of Blackpool quintet Boston Manor, that response comes in the form of their third full length album ‘GLUE’.
Boston Manor emerged back in 2013 as part of the UK’s burgeoning pop-punk scene, adhering to the tried and tested tropes of the genre that had been revitalised by the likes of The Story So Far. Their 2016 debut ‘Be Nothing’ cemented them as one of the best bands within that scene but it was their sophomore record ‘Welcome to the Neighborhood’ that marked a turning point for the band. Far more experimental than what came before, it heard the band blend elements of R&B, hip-hop, post-hardcore and industrial rock to create an eccletic record tied together by its moody atmospherics. Oftentimes brutal and occasionally soft, ‘GLUE’ continues that evolution.
Kicking things off is the lead single 'Everything Is Ordinary', a raucous blast of pure punk energy that serves as the album’s mission statement. It’s a glitchy and energetic track that pairs blaring synths with crunchy guitars and fuzzy drums to create a sound unlike anything Boston Manor has previously produced, informing the listener that the rulebook has been tossed out the window. The extent of vocalist Henry Cox’s range is on full display during the song’s hook which blends auto-tuned vocals with piercing screams and low crooning. It’s an abrasive song that hears Cox dismantle our desensitisation and our complacency when it comes to tragedy (“Run, run away/ it’s easier than doing something”) and this scathing critique perfectly embodies the ethos of the record.
The aggression heard on the opening track seeps it’s way across the rest of the album. There’s the confrontational energy of 'You, Me & The Class War', a vitriolic punk song that likens the increasing divide between Britain’s younger and older generation to an abusive relationship (“What would you do to me if I opened my mouth?”). “Only1” flits back and forth between grooving melodic sections and thunderously heavy parts bolstered by the rhythm section comprising drummer Jordan Pugh and bassist Dan Cuniff . Alternating between loud and quiet is nothing new for the world of rock but Boston Manor does so masterfully.
One of the ways in which Cox goes about tackling societal issues is through storytelling lyricism that places the listener squarely in the perspectives of those involved. The ominous 'On A High Ledge' unflinchingly picks apart toxic masculinity and the fallout that can occur when young boys are taught that to be a man means to keep one’s emotions tightly bottled. “Father, I think I’m different / I don’t like playing with the other boys” sings Cox as the song’s narrator, encapsulating the ways in which expectations placed upon young men can negatively impact self-image. The song’s eerie instrumental begins in a minimalist fashion with just a synth and stuttering hi-hats, gradually adding layers before culminating in a noisy crescendo, mirroring the ways in which suppressing emotion in the name of manhood can lead men to their breaking point.
‘GLUE’ reaches its denouement with the song 'Monolith'. The pent up frustration that has been built up throughout the album reaches its natural conclusion with an impassioned chant of “Hey you, fuck you too/ I’ll do what I want when I want to”. The song has been described by the band as a middle finger to the people making the world a worse place and is the kind of rallying cry that inspires people to take a stand. Through channeling their frustration into their craft, Boston Manor have not only made their finest album to date, they’ve lent a voice to the disaffected youth of modern Britain at a time when that is sorely needed.
Words: Sul Fell
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