We Are The In Crowd - Weird Kids Review
Posted by David Hayter on 02.20.2014
We Are The In Crowd are intent on making music that matters; Punk Pop that takes itself and the issues it raises seriously, but do they have what it takes to pull it off?
We Are The In Crowd - Weird Kids
1. Long Live The Kids 2. The Best Thing (That Never Happened) 3. Manners 4. Come Back Home 5. Attention 6. Dreaming Out Loud 7. Remember (To Forget You) 8. Don't You Worry 9. Windows In Heaven 10. Reflections
A friend complained that he was tired of watching the same old bands at music festivals. He was excited for the big names, but he wanted to experience the thrill of seeing someone new – to get on board (or rejecting an act outright) on ground floor. The problem? He didn’t have access to the musical underground and required a recommendation. Always one to lend a helping hand and having written a top to bottom preview of that year’s festival (Reading 2012), I was convinced that I could help. “So”, I said, “what kind of band are you looking for?” His response? “Well, you know I like Paramore”.
It’s a comparison that We Are The In Crowd and their fans are undoubtedly sick to the stomach of hearing, but my Paramore loving pal certainly went home happy. In truth, You Me At Six and All Time Low might have been a more realistic comparison point (Alex Gaskarth even made a surprise appearance during the set), but the sonic links to Hayley Williams globetrotting troop are undeniable at this point. The question for We Are The In Crowd is, first and foremost, how do you stand out from the crowd?
Despite its rise to prominence in the late-90s and commercial dominance in the 2000s, We Are The In Crowd brand of post-hardcore/pop punk still sounds strange to British ears. Over here in the UK, the teenage experience is typically characterized as bumbling, drunken and more than a little perverse. The great British artists always stressed the mundane nature of their adolescence. Alex Turner’s romantic vision of youth involved traffic jams preceding cuddles in the kitchen, drunk scraps in the local boozer and regrettable one night stands. WATIC, by comparison, continue the grand American traditional of turning adolescence into the pivotal pop culture moment.
“Long Live The Kids” is a preposterously grandiose album opener. It sets the tone for an album that will turn the quarrels between so-called-friends into climatic soul-scarring battles and the concept of unfulfilled ambition into a global tragedy. WATIC’s slow burning stab at stadium sized anthemia (spoiler: it ends in a slow wave chant) defiantly declares that you cannot tell the kids of Suburbia no. It’s hard to resist the instinct to tell Taylor Jardine to get a grip – even “Free Nelson Mandela” wasn’t sung with this level of well meaning zealotry.
WATIC aren’t the first upstarts to turn teenage romance into burning emblem of universal truth and justice – Hollywood and the band's pop punk peers have been doing it for generations. So what makes WATIC’s brand of self-mythology so jarring? Their fundamental lack of humor. Everyone from My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy to Paramore and You Me At Six employ humor to diffuse the over earnest ostentation of their message. They provided a wink and a nod that thrilling confounded their detractors and helped their fans form a bond of kinship deeper than the dictator/follower paradigm.
At times WATIC rightly pull no punches. “The Best Thing (That Never Happened)” pops and snaps impetuously as if the instruments simply cannot wait for Taylor Jardine’s next pithy putdown. This is where WATIC thrive. Bad boyfriends are a fertile territory and it is easy to imagine a legion of teenage fans wiping away their tears and punching the air as Taylor screams: “Never, never, never, your never going to live this down”. It might lack the spikey subversion of Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together”, but it works just fine as a darting outlet for pure unadulterated anger.
Frustratingly, these powerhouse moments are often lost behind a wave of overly straight-faced tedium. “Manners” offers a paint-by-numbers arrangement, a sub-standard hook and a joyless collection of lyrics. “Come Back Home” is marginally more effective. Its FM Radio sweep is hardly innovative, but the lyrics hit their mark by moving beyond generalities: “You taught me everything I know about poetry, I still pretend I know what it means”. If WATIC want to crucify their experience in the name of repressed youth, then they need to offer the kind of details that convince the listener that their experience is real and frighteningly intimate.
“Dreaming Out Loud” is perhaps the most Paramore-ish offering. The guitars jerk deliciously and Taylor throws herself into the verses, creating the illusion of chaos, while preserve a remarkably professional sense of control. In the search for originality WATIC have opted to employ strings more often than their peers – a decision which makes sense considering how seriously they are taking their message. “Don’t You Worry” is the strange result of this sonic blend. It melds some Bastille-esque blurts with Paramore-ish hammering and a verse that faintly echoes Pulp’s “Something Changed”.
“Windows In Heaven” feels a touch behind the times, employing the clicks and snaps of post-Dubstep, but rather than mimicking the gimmickry of AWOL Nation or Imagine Dragons, WATIC simply use this Spartan landscape as the setting for a pleasingly subdued ballad. After an album’s worth of tracks that make a mountain out of molehill, it’s frankly thrilling to hear a low-key ballad that reflects the minor stakes of young love, but captures the very real internal torment. It’s a humbling moment for Taylor Jardine and the kind of sentiment that will build stronger bonds than any number of “generation defining” slogans.
Rallying cries remain the order of the day and, while We Are The In Crowd could do with a dose of self-deprecation, when they nail the inspirational motif they are force to be reckoned with. “I know the way I want to be, but I’m trapped in who I am” is a vital sentiment that extends well beyond adolescence (“Attention”), but “destiny is overrated” is a cringe inducing sentiment that tops off a track (“Reflections”) loaded with ham-fisted and frankly embarrassing punch lines.
The trouble with WATIC’s approach is simple: when the message doesn’t resound and the big ballsy pop hooks don’t emerge (there are far too few good choruses on this LP), the band has no additional wrinkles capable of capturing the imagination. They’re serious, painfully earnest and exude a sense of energy as opposed to character – not the most enticing cocktail I’ve ever been offered. Still, plenty have band’s have struggled to express a sense of self and thrived, but if WATIC are to swim in an ocean of generalities: they need to deliver bigger, better and more irresistible pop songs.
The 411: We Are The In Crowd are not the first band to risk ridicule by taking the adolescent experience and raising it to near mythological heights. Romanticizing youth and the outsider are essential conceits of western pop culture, but where other bands employ self-deprecation, intimacy or imagination to undercut their inherent pomposity, WATIC simply pummel the same straight-faced notes into submission. When they have the pop hooks to back it up (“The Best Thing (That Never Happened)”) they thrive, when they can’t find that dynamite chorus or killer lyric they flounder. There are bursts of creativity to be found on Weird Kids, but its greatest strength remains the band’s rapacious energy level. WATIC might struggle to stand out, but they never feel like they’re phoning it in.