Just when we thought the pop-punk scene was dead, 5 Seconds of Summer revitalized the movement, bringing it to heights the genre hasn’t reached in years.
Joining One Direction on tour in 2013, band members Luke Hemmings, Calum Hood, Ashton Irwin, and Michael Clifford immediately jumped to the forefront of the mainstream pop-punk revival. With a “fandom” that rivals that of any other group, it’s no surprise 5SOS’ sophomore album, Sounds Good Feels Good, is projected to sell 175-185,000 US copies within its first week, a figure that will easily reach the top of the charts. And it’s when 5 Seconds of Summer embraces the group’s melodic, sugary pop-punk roots that the album really shines.
Sounds Good Feels Good opens with mall-punk track “Money,” an upbeat, riff-heavy song that echoes Put Up or Shut Up-era All Time Low. It’s impressive how well the band plays their target audience. “Money”’s opening lyrics describe a girl in “black jeans, white tee, black converse,” a straight address to the majority of their fans.
“She’s Kinda Hot” follows, Sounds Good Feels Good’s first single, released mid-July. Peaking at No. 22 on Billboard, the single earned a fair amount of success, partly due to the surrounding scandal. Immediately following the track’s release, the internet was abuzz comparing it to My Chemical Romance’s anthem “Teenagers.” Bassist/vocalist Michael Clifford addressed the similarities, claiming that the use of 12-bar blues and the same key were pure coincidence. In an individual context, it’s an entirely reasonable mistake, but unfortunately, the verses of the album’s next track (and coincidentally, the album’s only other single), “Hey Everybody!” sound eerily like Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” It seems like the boy band leaned a little too heavily on their influences when trying to age-up their sound for a sophomore release.
The pace of the album then slows with “Jet Black Heart,” an emotional, almost soulful, cry for a second chance at a broken, failed romance. “Catch Fire” is placed perfectly as “Jet Black Heart’s” successor, serving as the optimist’s interpretation of the same situation. Related lyrics, such as “every fire I ignited / faded to gray” and “when I catch fire, and wash over you like the sun / I will fight” make the punk and pop (respectively) tracks a cohesive narrative.
5 Seconds of Summer likes pairs. The band likes to pair two different songs—one usually more upbeat than the other—about the same thing. And while it may have originally been a stab at originality, it really just serves to show that the band is far better at the sugary stuff.
The album then returns to more rock-based tracks with “Castaway,” a chant-driven break up anthem. “Fly Away,” Sounds Good Feels Good’s next song, is a true revival of mid-2000s pop-punk, with a combination of chanting, lyrics, and pure energy that would please any All Time Low or Yellowcard fan. The album then changes pace with “Invisible,” the Sounds Good Feels Good alternative to their self-titled debut album’s hit, “Amnesia.” “Invisible” is the acoustic story of an American youth trying to find himself among the superficial/relatable, but predictable. Successor “San Francisco” continues the album’s trend of paired tracks, as it is the only other song heavily featuring acoustic guitar. The bubbly tune reminisces on the good times of a past relationship, and proposes a fresh start—maybe serving as the continuation of “Castaway.”
Sounds Good Feels Good closes with combination track “Outer Space/Carry On.” Outer Space is again the plea of a boy wanting his girl back, but the intriguing combination of what sounds like a toy piano and intense electric guitar chords refreshes the story. “Carry On” is the perfect choice to end the album—organs and a backup choir make the promising message sounds like a hymn. So much of 5 Seconds of Summer’s target audience are young teenage girls, struggling through adolescence and needing to hear that it “won’t be long / you know it’s gonna get better.”
Sounds Good Feels Good isn’t revolutionary by any standard, but it was never trying to be—the album is catered to 5 Seconds of Summer’s fan base, and while punk fans may sneer at their music, they’re taking millions of record sales to the bank. The band-turned-boy-band is sitting high on a new brand of pop-punk. Truly, they are “the kings and the queens of the new broken scene.”