'Awful Truth' - Woes / Turned Up Louder
Creativity is not something a diversely educated musical ear would likely attribute to the modern pop punk world. Chugging guitars, pounding choruses and thin, bright guitar tones are abundant in the discography of almost every band who has been daubed, whether of their own accord or not, with the genre’s largely conscripted code-of-practice. However, finding your way out of that scene alive, while no mean feat, is entirely doable, and the poster boys for young bands making such a transition are undoubtedly Edinburgh quartet Woes. After enjoying much success with their previously released EPs, both of which garnered much praise from an enraptured music community, Woes saw their debut full-length as a chance to shatter the mould entirely. Therefore, the resulting record’s title ‘Awful Truth’, is something of a misnomer. While the commitment to producing an authentic collection of tracks is tantamount to this record’s creation, the former half of the title could not be further from the truth. Built up of songs that shock as much as they inspire, ‘Awful Truth’ is an unapologetic ride through the consciousness of a band looking to blow their own creative barricades wide open.
Contorted vocals bubble up through a melody as dense as caramel to hail the opening of ‘Boy’, which builds further with a fluttering melody line undercut by droning bass fuzz: indicating as powerfully as can be that Woes have indeed done as promised. This is pop punk in its next evolution. Furious, cantering drums dissipate as quickly as they came, as the track bounds with wild abandon between a full-bodied pop rock rager, and a gently flickering ode- this is a record that shatters expectations from the off!
Not that Woes have entirely abandoned the scene from whence they came. Fizzling like pop, title track ‘Awful Truth’ brings that classic pop punk sound swelling to the fore, boasting a blazing bright guitar tone, sliding vocals, and the most perfect sing-along chorus that begs to be accompanied by a convertible car and an open road! Though, it must be said that even this track still contains more depth and variation than the classic combination of thunderous drums and sprightly guitar lines. Something crushingly heartfelt bubbles beneath the surface, consuming the bridge and the melancholy closing notes, and illustrating that Woes are a highly deft at traversing huge emotional crevasses. Warp-speed leaps through emotional atmospheres are also present on ‘Fake Friends’. Carrying lyrical echoes of their seminal single ‘Worst Friend’, one can already see the crowd pogoing with youthful abandon to the chugging guitar lines and vivacious melodies. Yet, though ‘Fake Friends’ may possess one of the most potent, rousing choruses of the summer, it still carries hints of a band gazing towards their approaching new horizons. The space once occupied by a punishing final chorus instead makes way for a softer, more experimental closing chapter, where synthesised notes ripple in the background, just waiting for their chance to barge their way into the limelight.
And so they do. Forming something of a bridge between old and new are the record’s three already released singles, and first up is the latest, ‘Fancy’. Dripping with self-aware swagger, the rich bassline slides away beneath a melody so effervescent and light is practically skips of its own accord! While the strain in the edges of the vocals still harks back to the band’s foundations, this track also flirts with much poppier sensibilities, to brilliant effect. Bookending the singles, the first of the trio, ‘Suburbs’, bubbles with an irrepressible energy, peaking when the real power comes flooding in at the chorus, with its raucous lead guitar; full-bodied assault of pulsating drums; and nimble basslines. On the other hand, despite this palpable impact, the track still carries an airy lightness that makes it an utterly insatiable pop tune. Turning heads ever since its live debut last October, the R&B beats and sultry hip hop vibes of ‘Money Shoe’ had many people very intrigued, and genre purists a little perturbed. Yet they needn’t have worried. Coming from a tropical twang, the pitching swoop into a full-bodied chorus packed out with crashing cymbals makes the song infinitely danceable. Pulsing synth beats weave around now-distant echoes of their pop punk foundations, as ‘Money Shoe’ walks the trapeze between club anthem and underground pop punk show rager with apparent ease.
Paving the way for what is yet to come, ‘Money Shoe’ sets up the latter part of the record to be one packed with daring experimentation. Pulsating synths erupt in bursts of colour on ‘Gone Forever’, which, while at odds with the crushing wall of guitars that pelts your eardrums like hailstones, feeds in to the hungry pulse of the kick drum in the bridge that practically begs you to clap along! By contrast, ‘Cross’ is potently narcotic, opening with isolated guitar notes that dazzle like raindrops, which are then overlain with rattlesnake-esque reverberated drums: a dynamic dichotomy that should jar, but instead melds beautifully with the soft, saline vocals. A shade melancholier in tone, perhaps unsurprisingly given its title, is ‘Mess’. Here, the vocals ripple upward, wrapped in a soft mist, leading into a bittersweet chorus with a soaring melody line all shrouded in a minor key that tugs irrepressibly at the heartstrings. A lighter-waving ballad, the track focuses on ‘both sides of the coin’ when it comes to touring, and especially the ‘huge toll [it takes] on our relationships back home’- a sentiment reflected in the final echoing vocals that almost drip with pain. Bringing a touch of brightness to the album’s closing moments is the touchingly bittersweet ‘Ugly’. Woven with ethereal synths, whose delicacy is mirrored in the distorted vocals, the track carries a heady, ethereal quality. Yet anyone who thought Woes would let their debut LP fizzle out in calm placidity is proven wrong yet again, with one final trick hidden up the band’s now very long sleeves: a chorus that packs as much clout as ever, that brings this utter delight of a record to a fist-pumping crescendo.
Innovation is ‘Awful Truth’s catalyst. Coming from a scene that is saturated with over-produced, homogenous bands who are complacent in colouring within the lines, Woes have proven beyond doubt that there is life beyond the confines of the ‘pop punk’ label. The risks they have taken and the questions they have raised with this record have paid them back in dividends, and the resulting record is as stunning in its well-crafted depth as it is in its wilding variation. Even for many an initially sceptical ear, ‘Awful Truth’ has proven itself as a more than viable contender for album of the year.
'Awful Truth' is out on the 28th of June via UNFD.
Check out the video for the band's latest single, 'Fancy', below:
Woes will be heading out on a UK headline tour in support of 'Awful Truth' at the end of the month- dates can be found below, and tickets are available here: