For better or for worse, as a band matures, so do their songs. For The Front Bottoms, that means moving away from the teenage anthems of unrequited love to musings of a more stable life and relationships packed with the frustrations and complexities of full-fledged adulthood. On The Front Bottoms’ latest album, Going Grey, the growing pains of reaching adulthood are the focus, surrounded by atmospheric music and more mature production.
The album finds singer-songwriter Brian Sella in a stable relationship but torn between work and play, and the way his work often feels like play while many of his peers’ work really is work. “Vacation Town,” one of the album’s singles, portrays this perfectly, both lyrically and in the music video, which features twins stuck together and manifesting this struggle between the 9-to-5 life and perpetual vacation. The album closes out with “Ocean,” where Brian sings, “this has nothing to do with you / it’s me versus me.”
“Bae” is probably my favorite track on the album and speaks to the experiences of adulthood in your mid-twenties. The lyrics wind together the mundane responsibilities of everyday life, the difficult realizations about friendships, and the revelry of being in a healthy, loving relationship. The chorus is catchy—the perfect sing-along for busy Saturday mornings spent running errands: “I gotta move my car / I gotta move your couch / I learned that loves tastes good / you shoved it in my mouth / I got all twisted up / you helped straighten me out / I gotta wake up early / I gotta move your couch.”
Anger and the need for empathy are another sentiment that runs throughout the album, which is welcomed in the wake of all that 2017 has brought. “Peace Sign” focuses on a girl who can’t calm down and flashes a peace sign before switching to raising her middle finger. “Grand Finale” is about the termination of a relationship where the well of empathy has run dry. In “Raining,” Sella pleas for understanding, “How do you think that felt? / How do you think that felt for me?”
Going Grey is also a departure from the band’s previously cruder sound, with the instrumentation far surpassing the simple acoustic guitar, drums, bass, and keys of their early works. This album suggests maybe Sella has moved past only playing power chords and that drummer Mat Uychich has spent a little time studying the technique and tools of his trade. Furthermore, synths, a toy piano, and ambient ocean sounds are also used to build out the album’s atmosphere. While some fans see this maturation in sound as a betrayal, I think it’s just a part of growing up.
Ultimately, Going Grey is an album of opposition—of continuing to wrestle with contrasting lifestyles, perspectives, and personalities. While Sella may have found a stable, healthy romantic relationship (finally), that doesn’t mean life is any easier or without problems. There is no happy medium to be found as Sella jumps from happy to sad, angry to numb, work to vacation, youthful to grey-haired. In a world where moderation seems to no longer exist in both pleasure and politics, and in an age of life where you and your peers appear to either be still figuring things out or married with kids, this album strikes the perfect chord.