There is a dying art in contemporary music, and that is the ability to tell a story. Most songs are autobiographical and are poetry, but they don’t necessarily connect the listener to artist on a personal level. There is a certain level of mastery of the English language necessary to transport the audience into a writer’s world or recall their own similar experiences in rich, vivid detail.
The Front Bottoms are doing their part to create a revival of narrative songs. The pop-punk duo from New Jersey blends minimalistic yet catchy songs with personal stories of post-adolescent experience. These stories are told through Brian Sella’s vocals as he strums along with his acoustic guitar and Mathew Uychich backing him up vocally and on drums. With the occasional trumpet; piano and electric guitar backup, their sound can only be described as “eclectic.” Their tempo lends itself to pop-punk and they will more than likely fall into the catch-all bucket of indie rock, but their style is hooky and distinctive.
Their story-telling is a major driver in their individuality. Sella talk sings his way through his subject matter of youthful themes. Stories involve parties, getting high, unrequited love, friends becoming homeless, and familial anger. We may have heard several of these a hundred times before, and they are clichés that have been played out, but the meticulous attention to detail and the choice of words Sella uses is the magic behind the Front Bottoms.
Anyone can say “I sobered up quickly” or “I want to kiss that girl,” but choosing to sing “It’s ‘the cops are coming in’ type of sobering up” in their song “The Beers” or “I try to work up the courage to kiss the bottom half of her face” in “Rhode Island” that add an extra dimension to the experience. Everyone was eighteen once; they wanted to be noticed by the right people and invisible to the rest. The Front Bottoms identify with those who are still that age and those who remember what it was like. Listening to this album pushes the bruise on a healing psyche.
These nostalgic trips help overlook the imperfections, like the vocals falling flat at times, but the off-tones add to the emotional rawness of the vocals. This debut by the Front Bottoms should not be judged on this alone, but on all the other merits of the album. Sella and Uychich know how to make a fun and catchy tune and invite the listener in to their mid-Atlantic world. Take a listen and step inside yourself when their album is released on September 6th.