REVIEW: The Front Bottoms- “Back on Top” (Stream Here)

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The Front Bottoms at Rough Trade NYC

New Jersey’s The Front Bottoms released their fifth studio album, “Back on Top” as their first record under the Fueled by Ramen label famous for acts like Panic! at the Disco and Twenty One Pilots. 

With the core lineup revolving around singer/guitarist  Brian Sella with drums, bass, keyboards, and trumpet, multi-instrumentalist Ciaran O’Donell gives the band a more full sound in both performance and in the studio. More apparent than ever on “Back on Top” the band shows a musical development much farther than their previous releases. While Sella’s acoustic guitar is characteristically minimal to underscore his powerful lyricism, the compositional strength of the album comes more from a greater melodic sensibility on the major singles. Where “Talon of the Hawk” and their self-titled debut saw some raw, emotional lines, this record retains its sentimentality in a less straightforward manner.

Initially, the “West Virginia/Cough It Out” singles were released before the announcement of the record, which showed some of the formula of their previous records, with the the A-side a more confessional acoustic track and the B-side more indicative of their LP. Laden with bone-chilling harmonies, minor key tonality, and the technical level of songwriting show the major progress of the quartet. Eventually, the band released “HELP” once the record was made known to the public as well as, the more inspired “Laugh Till I Cry.”

The album begins with the angelic choir of “Motorcycle” which shows Sella taking a semi-serious approach, allowing the listener to settle in, with his goofy at points but poignant at its peak moments. While the lyrics take the backseat on this record in favor of more complex musical structures, Sella makes use of repetition to drive the point home with seemingly simple lines like “I am delusional with love” on “Cough It Out” or “When my mind is uncertain my body decides” on “The Plan (Fuck Jobs)” the lines only increase in their emotional devastation or power when repeated ad nauseam.

“Back on Top” sees The Front Bottoms take a new approach to songwriting, in spite of the lyricism moving out of the spotlight. For their first release under the label responsible for your 2007 emo phase, Fueled by Ramen looks like they are revitalized for a new era of emotionally angst-ridden youth.

The band is touring this Fall with two sold-out shows at NYC’s Irving Plaza.

The Front Bottoms 2015 North American Fall Tour

Oct 14 New York, NY @ Irving Plaza *$
Oct 15 New York, NY @ Irving Plaza *$
Oct 16 New Haven, CT @ Toads Place New Haven
Oct 17 Clifton Park, NY@ Upstate Concert Hall
Oct 18 South Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
Oct 21 Toronto, ON @ The Mod Club
Oct 22 Rochester, NY @ Water Street Music Hall
Oct 25 Richmond, VA @ The National
Oct 27 Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar
Oct 28 Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre
Oct 29 Columbus, OH @ Skully’s Music Diner
Oct 30 Cleveland, OH @ Agora Theatre & Ballroom
Oct 31 Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
Nov 1 Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater *$
Nov 3 Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre
Nov 4 St Louis, MO @ The Ready Room
Nov 5 Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theatre
Nov 6 Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
Nov 7 Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
Nov 9 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
Nov 10 Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre
Nov 12 San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s*
Nov 13 Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
Nov 14 Pomona, CA @ The Glass House
Nov 15 San Diego, CA @ Irenic
Nov 17 Mesa, AZ @ Club Red/Red Owl
Nov 19 Austin, TX@ The Parish
Nov 20 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Bar N Grill
Nov 23 Ybor City, FL @ Orpheum
Nov 24 Orlando, FL @ The Social
Nov 25 Atlanta, GA @ Center Stage Theater %^&
Nov 27 Silver Spring, MD @ Fillmore Silver Spring *$
Nov 28 Philadelphia, PA @ The Electric Factory *$
Nov 29 Boston, MA @ Royale *$
Nov 30 Providence, RI @ Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel

*w/ The Smith Street Band
$ w/ Elvis Depressedly
% Manchester Orchestra
^ O’ Brother
& Stuffing

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