ALBUM REVIEW: Real Friends – The Home Inside My Head

The emo genre has changed so much since its birthing in the early 1980s in Washington DC’s murky and political agitated hardcore scene and has undergone numerous growth spurts characterised by an increase in popularity. The mid-90s saw emo gain much underground success with artists like The Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World capitalising on the scene that Jawbreaker and Sunny Day Real Estate reinvented after the ideals of emo created by Rites of Spring drifted out of Washington DC and into other music scenes. This underground success saw it rise to popularity in the late 90s among independent labels and then in the 2000s – the emo genre skyrocketed to mainstream success as entire generation of disenfranchised youths sought refuge from the perils of high school in the comforting arms of artists like My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, Saves the Day, and many more. It was in these years that emo began to fuse with pop punk – a genre with which it was often loosely associated.

It was this fusion of emo and pop punk that allowed for the emo genre and its respective aesthetics to continue to exist despite its decline in popularity in the late 2000s. Bands like The Wonder Years and The Story So Far continued to carry the torch for the emo genre as they continued to bring their own particular brand of emo-punk into the world. This sparked an entirely new wave of emo bands that developed separately from the emo revival as they combined the focus on the individual propagated by Rites of Spring and the angst of 90s emo with the catchiness and up-tempo aggression of pop punk. It was in this realm of musical experimentation that Real Friends formed and quickly became the poster boys for a new wave of emo bands with the release of Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing in 2014.

Two years later and Real Friends are still the face of modern emo music as their new album The Home Inside My Head keeps them firmly placed in the realm of angst-ridden and introspective pop punk into which they placed themselves. Some could call this a step backward as we seem to live in a musical climate where artists are expected to evolve with each album like some kind of overworked and overtrained Pokémon. I see it differently. Real Friends reluctance to evolve and experiment is rather symptomatic of a band that quickly receive praise and success as soon as they released music. Furthermore, it is rather typical of emo bands to not want to evolve especially when they’re releasing music in a moment where everyone seems to be frothing at the mouth for emo music. It makes sense for Real Friends, as a young band, to want to ride out this wave for as long as possible while making vague hints towards creating something different.

There is a different air of raw authenticity to The Home Inside My Head. “Mess”, which is by the far the most superior song on the album, sees the band presenting their intense focus on the individual in a more mature light as they dwell less in the past but rather focus on the present. A quick burst of four-chord riffs opens the song drawing the listener to the opening verses backed by an intricate combination of guitar and percussion that seems to draw influence from 90s emo. The song itself acknowledges the failures of the past, but the chorus of “Last year I was a train wreck now I’m just a mess” reflects a pessimistic brand of optimism. It seems that band is getting to a point where they are content with their career as Dan Lambton sings “I’m starting to be where I need to be” – which could be way they played the safe option of sticking to their roots as opposed to experimenting with new music.

From start to finish, The Home Inside My Head is a sweeping landscape of catchy pop punk riffs tempered by gut-wrenching angst as the band dwells deeply on the inability for humans to let go of anything that is deemed to be toxic. The introspective and personal lyrics alongside the intricate guitar work and tear-jerking emotion makes each song relatable for all listeners. In doing this, Real Friends cement their position as an emo band and the guardians of whatever spells are giving to emo bands to make such emotional music.

7/10

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