'No Vacation' - The Bottom Line / Turned Up Louder
Long summer nights have long been the ideal backdrop against which pop punk bands aspire to set their buoyant tunes. Laid-back, yet still with enough drive behind them to prompt a mildly-intoxicated sing-along (and some cringeworthy finger-pointing to boot!), the genre has become as synonymous with the season as a pitcher of Pimms, coastal roadtrips, and, for us Brits at least, muddy festival wellingtons! However, the experience of touring the USA with your best mates over the summer season was anything but the idyllic dream for the self-dubbed ‘cockroaches of punk rock’, The Bottom Line. Touring the States in the wake of Hurricane Harvey meant confronting cancelled shows, flooded supermarkets and crippled finances, and it was these experiences that fed into their latest record, the appropriately titled ‘No Vacation’. In spite of its traumatic roots, the record itself boasts an airy, almost tangibly sanguine atmosphere that makes it the perfect companion to much more pleasantly memorable summer days than the ones that inspired its creation.
Bringing the brassy brightness in the cymbals that crash away in the background of the track right from the off is opener ‘Reasons’. Full of infectiously lively guitar lines and perfect pogoing rhythms, at times the bassline gets a little swamped in amongst the mix, however the bright guitar tone and inflected vocals undeniably invoke connections to The Bottom Line’s former touring buddies in Simple Plan. Indeed, nods to heavyweights of the genre can be found all across this record. ‘Like the Movies’ carries subtle echoes of Bowling for Soup in the winds that bear it onwards, particularly in the lead in to the final chorus. Bookending the other end of the track are bolstered, stereo-effect guitars, and sandwiched between the two are enough ‘woah-ohs’ to sweep a crowd up into the dalliance of the guitars, despite the chord progressions not diversifying much over the course of the record. Again, bringing stereo effect guitars, uncannily comparable to those favoured by the likes of Seaway, ‘Over and Over’ basks in its balmy, summery vibes. The warm, noodling guitars take centre stage, as the slowly building drums from the bridge fall away, leaving the vocals and guitar isolated, before swooping into the final chorus with a full-bodied humidity. An earworm all of the band’s own making, however, comes in the form of ‘She Makes Me’. Echoing drum beats erupt into a chorus of bounding basslines and lilting vocals, with yet another infinitely catchy chorus line that guarantees sing-alongs when the band break this one out live! Bubbly and blazingly perky, it is an undeniable earworm that will bury itself in the recesses of your mind all summer long, thanks to its easy-going, playful tone.
At times, however, this airy lightness does work to the band’s detriment. Flowing as easily as a river, lead single ‘Gone’ continues to wind through a sprightly melody line, yet a flavour of something just beyond reach glimmers in the slight strain that flickers around the vocals, tantalisingly hovering just out of reach. While the chorus is undeniably vivacious, as a whole, one can’t help but feel that the track would benefit from a touch more bassline to ground it and give it the sucker-punch it so deserves. Similarly, ‘California’ is as humid and easy-going as the titular state’s infamous sunshine, and inaugurates The Bottom Line to the now extortionately long list of bands who, for one reason or another, have been moved to put pen to paper by this state now almost idiosyncratic with the pop punk scene.
On the other hand, this record is one that will undoubtedly resonate with the strata of people for whom the genre was first crafted at the inception of the new-age pop punk revival several years ago. ‘Everything’ is a slice of picture-perfect fist-pumping pop punk that is the ideal soundtrack to many a fleeting teenage romance. While, pleasantly, the guitars have more driving weight behind them in the opening notes, this track’s real triumph is its tackling of that quintessential onslaught of previously uncharted emotions that the arrival of your first young love brings: breezy and self-deprecating in equal measure. Racing layers of guitars patter in and around each other, over a scrambling bassline on ‘Bad News’, which carries a frenetic energy to every note, as the whining guitar climbs and frolics through the bridge, all tinged with that pre-teen thrill of your first tantalising taste of rebellion. While ‘Doomed’ aptly boasts some of the record’s most melancholy lyrics, their true poignancy is masked somewhat by the slowly ebbing melody and poppy chorus that glides with a merry zest: a pure dichotomy to the abject pessimism of the lyrics that makes it a perfect companion to those early waves of pre-teen angst. Fittingly perhaps, closing out ‘No Vacation’ with a melody infused with the faded colours of a sunset sky is ‘In Your Memory’. With a chorus that fizzes and pops, as sweet as sherbet, and with a light-handed touch of a bittersweet undertone, the track feels like the closing act of a vividly painted teenage rom-com- touching and nostalgic in every way.
‘No Vacation’ demonstrates, perhaps as well as anything can, the ability for a band to turn negative experiences into art that will undoubtedly fuel far merrier ones. The perfect record to quietly soundtrack a placid summer’s evening, for the country’s pop punk devotees, their playlists just got that little bit longer.
'No Vacation' is out now via Marshall Records:
Check out the video for the band's latest single, 'In Your Memory', below:
The Bottom Line will be heading out on a UK tour in support of 'No Vacation' later this month- dates can be found below and tickets are available here: