Liverpool band WSTR released their second full length album ‘Identity Crisis’ on August 31st, and just two weeks after it’s release, it is evident that the band have already secured themselves as big players in the world of pop punk. Much like their debut ‘Red, Green or Inbetween’, the album conforms to every trope of the genre as if the band were working down a list, except this time it’s cleaner, punchier, and more produced.
The band, currently consisting of Sammy Clifford (vocals), Alex Tobijanski (bass), Andy Makin (drums), and Tom Hawkes (guitar), proudly announced that they had signed to Hopeless Records for this release and the label’s touch is apparent throughout. Following in the footsteps of fellow label artists Neck Deep and Trophy Eyes, WSTR are openly leaning more towards the pop side of pop punk with this music. Producer Seb Barlow, who also produced their last album, has made this one sound cleaner and more professional than any of their previous releases, again highlighting the pop rather than the punk. This needn’t be a criticism, it’s a formula that works and WSTR and their team have managed to perfect it. Sammy’s vocals are cleaner, the transitions are neater, and the songs are easier to sing and dance to than ever before.
A buzzing energy perpetuates Identity Crisis from start to finish, complemented by catchy riffs and singalong choruses, the album really is a pop punk dream. The energetic and contagious nature doesn’t falter once, making it hard to predict which songs will be chosen for playlists and securing it as something fans are likely to listen to in full instead. There is of course some variation in the tracks, ‘See You In Hell’ is the slowest song WSTR have released to date, something which they jokingly highlighted during their album release show in Liverpool. The song fits the album perfectly as the token ‘slow, emotional, hold your lighters up’ track and shows a side to the band that we haven’t really seen before, though it was always obvious that it was there. ‘Fling’, ‘Ashtray’, and ‘Tell Me More’ are perfect examples of songs that you’ll learn the lyrics to in minutes and that will stay in your head for days.
Interestingly, one of the main themes of the album is non conformity, as can be seen most plainly through the lyrics to ‘Crisis’, ‘don’t tell me who I want to be/’cause all I need’s identity’, despite the fact that the album itself very much conforms to genre expectations. Other themes that it explores are mental health, break ups, and alcoholism, all other popular topics in this genre of music. Despite that, the band have put their own spin on said topics and appear to have written about them from genuine experience which does give it a sense of individuality.
The classic characteristic of sad lyrics set to bouncy tunes has been very much adhered to with Identity Crisis. ‘Hide Everything Sharp’ disguises the lyrics ‘I seldom see the sun/hate almost everyone’ with its upbeat melody, and ‘Riddle Me This’ speaks of alcoholism alongside a drumbeat that you can’t help but dance to. Though the majority of lyrical content is intelligently crafted and has meaning deep beyond the feel good way that it’s presented, there are areas of the album that are slightly more adolescent, cringingly so in some parts. The ‘all I ever hear is blah blah blah/your therapy’s wasted on me’ in ‘The Latest’ is sung with conviction but the sentiment perhaps could have been executed more eloquently.
Overall, Identity Crisis is perfect for anyone looking for an album which fits the 2018 pop punk mould. It’s catchy, energetic, cleverly crafted and loveable in a lot of ways. However if you’re looking for originality and creativity beyond that, you won’t find it here. The band are currently touring North America before returning back to the UK for December, where they’ll be playing a run of shows. After seeing them at the album launch gig in Liverpool on the day of its release, I can confirm that their performance is as energetic as the music, if not more so. I expect to be seeing WSTR across more festival stages next year, particularly those catered to the genre. Identity Crisis is fun loving, energetic, pop punk perfection.
Highlights: Fling, Ashtray, See You In Hell
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Purchase Identity Crisis here