'So Cynical'- RCKLSS / Turned Up Louder
Being a ‘pop punk’ band in this day and age is no mean feat- making waves in a packed-out scene with its own ever revolving sound, fanbase -and, it must be said, scandals, - is not an enviable task. One band who have stepped up to the plate with their debut EP 'So Cynical', however, are Brighton four-piece RCKLSS. Joining the cohort of vowel-less bands cutting their teeth in the industry, RCKLSS have so far enjoyed support of their first two singles from the likes of BBC Introducing in The South and Amazing Radio, while ‘So Cynical’ itself serves as a tapestry woven from heartbreak into a web of newfound solidarity, each track building out from the silence, as if it is pulled from the misty recesses of this band’s experiences, allowing them to paint their hearts on their sleeves.
The radio effect guitars that hail the introduction of ‘Every Time’ bubble up from the ether, bringing a summery zest and a bright guitar tone that make comparisons to genre titans New Found Glory inevitable. The track contains every essential, archetypal pop punk ingredient you need: a short but punchy shout-along in the pre-bridge; some raucous gang vocals; a relentlessly undulating melody that will keep you pogoing from start to finish; and to top it all off, lyrics that speak plainly of both heartbreak and a renewed solidarity. These idiosyncrasies of the genre can also be found on second single ‘Tell You’, with its euphoric gang vocals and chugging guitars that bound like an excitable puppy- or indeed a teenage boy discovering his first taste of miniscule rebellion. It is an unmistakable muted refraction of the anthems of early 2000s pop punk that were meant as a call to arms for all the outcasts and misfits. Yet while it is a fun, airy track, you can’t help but feel that it may perhaps benefit from a little more fire and grit in the hearth to really pay homage to its punk rock ancestors.
The echoing drums that open the distinctly darker-toned ‘Animals’ promise great things; however, the development of the melody throughout the track is slightly flat, and you feel as if you are waiting for a promised progression that doesn’t seem to be coming. That is, until the pummelling breakdown in the bridge, filled out with a crunching of guitars and driving bassline- proving that the wait was worth it. The bassline is the real star of the show, too, on ‘Sorry for Trying’: ticking over like a train rushing over the tracks, it provides an unabated metronome, keeping in check the lyrics drawn from the universal collective experience of losing your love to someone else, and being forced to rebuild yourself over again. The track is peppered with small, tasteful delights- the way the accent of vocalist Matty Halliwell bubbles through in the opening harmonies, through to the bassline which surges forward, driving from the front in the bridge before swooping into the final, bobbing chorus.
The excitement and promise of ingenuity in this record is undoubtedly felt most strongly in the harmonious, almost ethereal opening piano notes of ‘Struggle’, which are a welcome surprise. The delicate harmonies and the shivering ebb and flow of the piano carry the suggestion that perhaps there is more depth to this band than simply being another cookie-cutter pop punk band following in the cavernous footsteps of pop punk revivalists such as Neck Deep and The Story So Far. However, once the guitars come racing back in, the pleasantly uncomfortable pressure of the unsullied candour is lifted, bringing with it an unfortunate sense of disappointment. While the rest of the track does set itself up to be a classic, swaying pop rock ballad that is perfect for being shouted by an audience packed into a small, sweaty venue, that spark of something richer that has been snatched away is hard to forget. Closing out the EP is the sobering, melancholy ‘Empty Space’, characterised by lonely, echoing guitar notes, with thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics lain over a cool, smooth blanket of wistful guitars and rich, groaning bassline. Culminating in a crescendo of soaring vocals, it is a poignant way to close out a solid first body of work for this aspiring young band. ‘So Cynical’ has its many small highlights- the haunting, echoing harmonies will not fail to strike a chord, while the upbeat tracks would not be out of place on any pop punk summer playlist. RCKLSS are a band who are developing their sound and deciding who they are as a collective of artists, and if those sparks of intrigue grow into flames of creative passion, then you can be sure this won’t be the last you’ll be hearing from this young quartet.
'So Cynical' is released February 1st as a self-release.
Check out the video for second single 'Tell You' below:
The band are playing several shows in support of the release- dates can be found below:
Connect with RCKLSS via Twitter: @rcklssUK
Connect with RCKLSS via their website: https://www.rcklss.uk/tellyou