'Great Heights and Nosedives'- ROAM / Turned Up Louder
When a band has built their entire branding on genial self-deprecation between themselves and their fans, it almost seems a shame when they produce a stunning album where the opportunities for light-hearted self-criticism are few and far between! Then again, when the album is as superb as ‘Great Heights and Nosedives’, the latest offering from south coast pop punkers Roam, we have little right to complain! Following 2016’s ‘Backbone’, the record which spawned the affectionate tagline ‘Roam Sucks’ which has haunted the band for the past 18 months, ‘Great Heights and Nosedives’ harks back in spirit to the passion of Roam’s early days, but with a newfound cohesion and finesse borne from the experience gained by the quintet thanks to their extensive touring schedule, which recently has seen them cross America with their fellow south coast boys As It Is and jaunt through the UK and Europe with genre giants New Found Glory. As a result, their sophomore album is a true testament to the growth they have seen as individuals and as a band, and what they have created is as refined as it is raucous, as carefully considered as it is pure, unadulterated fun!
Nowhere is that made plainer than on lead single ‘Playing Fiction’, which premiered on Radio 1’s The Rock Show to a pleasantly surprised cohort of Roam’s fans and critics alike. The whimsical metaphors in frontman Alex Costello’s lyrics are accompanied by a quirky, undulating opening riff and underpinned by a faint rumbling bassline in the verses that lays the foundation for the stomping guitar line in the chorus that begs for some angry finger pointing to accompany it! However, the inclusion of faint yet soaring backing vocals lifts the track, pulling a sense of depth into what is otherwise a pure pogoing track! The drive that was at times lacking on the latter half of ‘Backbone’ is maintained by the relentless crashing of the drums, a regular feature throughout the whole of the album and courtesy, for the first time on record, of drummer Miles Gill, who joined the band shortly after the completion of their debut album.
And the subsequent singles continue to impress: the delectably rich bass on ‘Alive’, coupled with the hopeful, uplifting lyrics the like of which modern pop punk is becoming renowned for brings an instant smile to your face and makes jumping around almost impossible to resist! Similarly, ‘Guilty Melody’, despite its slower tempo, illustrates that Roam are not afraid to slow things down a little and put out a more mid-tempo bop, and that they don’t have to hide behind raucous riffs and crashing drums, a fact displayed with even greater impact by ‘Rich Life of a Poor Man’, whose airy melody veils lyrics that piece through with a dagger sharp poignancy, especially those as striking as the gut wrenchingly relatable ‘hoping I’m not the punchline of a joke I didn’t get’.
If wild abandon is more your style, then the positively whiplash inducing ‘Left for Dead’ is the ideal candidate- its relentless energy makes it a spinning whirlwind of a song perfect for mosh pits, and save for the welcome relief of the softer, melodic bridge, you barely have time to draw breath from the first driving chord to the last one! The distorted feedback and a punchy opening riff of ‘Scatterbrained’ promises some pure, unflinching punk, which in the end doesn’t quite come to fruition, but the lack of grit can be forgiven thanks to the ridiculously bouncy guitars in a chorus with lyrics that are perfectly designed to be screamed up in defiance at the night sky! ‘Flatline’ follows a similar vein, with a huge swooping hook that leads into one of the biggest and best produced choruses on the record- while it might not be as endearingly rough-around-the-edges as some long time Roam fans might have hoped for, the rich, rounded bass and Costello’s shining vocals worked into the neatly crafted layers of the song make it one of the biggest and grandest tracks on the record.
Yet sometimes it is the hidden gems on an album that are the most special, and one such track is undeniably ‘Open Water’- richly layered and upliftingly defiant, with the surprising yet welcome addition of a delicate dripping piano in the bridge. This is more softly spoken than we have perhaps ever seen Roam before, and it makes this song a true hidden gem that has the potential to become a subtle, composed yet introspectively powerful anthem. With its lyrics that are peppered with beautiful images and the acoustic opening notes that so resemble Roam’s iconic ballad ‘Tracks’, ‘Curtain Call’ sets itself up to be characteristic tear-jerker, yet while it is emotional, it is not as overt and gut-punchingly powerful as it could have been, and yet this strangely doesn’t work to its detriment. In fact, the opposite is true- the subtlety of it makes it all the more enticing, and makes it the kind of song that grows to mean something with time and is moulded by the experiences and memories each listener will attach to it, rather than twisting your gut with anguish from the first listen. Rounding off the album is closing track ‘Home’, which boasts a soaring melody and lyrics which speak of a band looking back and finding comfort in their roots, but the evident progression in the song’s sound compared to that of the band’s early days is clear evidence of them looking ahead to pastures new with this cathartic, fist-raising anthem.
Roam have truly created something special with ‘Great Heights and Nosedives’. It is not perhaps what many people expected from them- it is more refined, more considered and more thoughtful than many would have guessed, coming from a band built on the foundations of all that is wild, messy and rough-around-the-edges about pop punk. Blended with their older material, these tracks will make for a brilliant rollercoaster of a live show, and in isolation it is a wonderful collection of tracks that display Roam at their most vulnerable as well as their most rowdy! Some may say that what Roam have created here is a very strong contender for album of the year, and while that fact is one up for discussion, as they look forward to their next UK headline tour this coming December, one thing is certain- this new era of Roam is looking to be a very exciting one indeed for these boys!
'Great Heights and Nosedives' is out now Hopeless Records.
Check out the video for the record's lead single, 'Playing Fiction', below: