If you read my last concert review, you know that I think punk rock angst should be taken seriously. Unfortunately, The Front Bottoms are a stellar example of why it is not. This fact is especially disappointing because I think that The Front Bottoms have made good music. In particular, I’m a fan of their 2011 self-titled release. What makes it work is the honesty in the lyrics. It’s not particularly subtle, which leaves a lot of room for storytelling. These stories are told clearly and the lead singer doesn’t get lost in metaphor. Take for example, the lyric: “And I will remember that summer as the summer I was taking steroids, cause you like a man with muscles, and I like you.”
When they played “The Beers” Monday night at the Regency, that same lyric lost a lot of meaning to me because I did not believe the lead singer, Brian Sella, actually believed himself when he sang it. The band itself seemed like they were constantly out of step with each other. A few times, the drums sounded completely out of sync with the vocals. This sloppiness wouldn’t be a problem if, on Talon of the Hawk (2013) and Going Grey (2017) in particular, the stories weren’t so boring. The line, “I never sleep in the front seat, but I got so stoned, I fell asleep in the front seat” was repeated at least seven times in the course of one three minute song. It’s imperative that if the instruments are sloppy and out of step, the vocals compliment that or at the very least distract from it. But, unfortunately, Brian’s almost-bored delivery of these new lyrics just does not capture my interest the way the delivery and lyrics did on The Front Bottoms (2011).
I’m also a little bothered by the band’s steady trend towards entirely dehumanizing the love interests featured in the albums released after The Front Bottoms. Many of these people Sella sings about are faceless, and we as consumers of music have no understanding of their personalities. In their earlier work the post-breakup angst is still there, but there’s an effort to tell a story about two people and not just one. This binary storytelling just feels more fair. A lot of their new lyrics leave a bad taste in my mouth, and a band using a crude metaphor for a vagina as their name shouldn’t push their luck.
I can complain all I want, but I can’t take away from the fact that they have an incredibly loyal fanbase. Most people around me knew every word to every song. Sella even dedicated a song to a fan who had been at every show they’d played in San Francisco. Creating that sort of relationship with your fans is commendable and rare. Seeing a bunch of people around me having a blast has me wondering if I’m just being an asshole. But I don’t think I am. I still want to like their music. They have written music that does mean something to me. I’m still a fan. I want them to change my mind and recapture me in the future, but their show this Monday did not fill me with optimism.
Written by Walker Spence