Gone are the days of Grouplove’s “Tongue Tied” and their superior 2013 album “Spreading Rumours” with their recent release of their latest album, “This is This.” Featuring nine songs, “This is This” displays seemingly painfully obvious themes following the COVID-19 pandemic, without any of Grouplove’s previous charm.
Songs “Scratch” and “Deadline” set up themes for the album: a circular and never-ending frustration and listlessness with the pandemic that has both caused them to both lose parts of themselves during the pandemic but also find themselves face-to-face with their most “real” selves.
Grouplove’s best past songs, like “Raspberry,” “Itchin’ on a Photograph” and the quintessential “Tongue Tied” all have these sweet, charming elements of anticipatory instrumentals leading up their choruses, paired with easily recognizable sliding vocals that set Grouplove apart in the alternative scene.
However, while it’s obvious the album was not made without passion, I was disappointed to hear Grouplove had lost the magnetism they brought in their past music. Admittedly, “Primetime” and “This Is The End,” which open the album, feature incredibly emotional, screaming vocals, even if completely devoid of lyrical meaning. I don’t believe Grouplove has ever experimented with such a mishmash of noises, and yet it felt entirely uninventive, even as a rock band.
Later songs on the album, including “Just What You Want” (featuring Dani Miller of Surfbot) and “Oxygen Swimming” were disappointing, to say the very least. Both songs featured long overdone punk rock elements from the early 2010s paired with juvenile melodies, lyrics and instrumentals. I could neither say the band had reinvented their previous sound, nor maintained any of their sweet appeal from the past.
The others were no better. “Seagulls” was forgettable, besides the use of seagull screeches and a hilarious jump from screaming to a nostalgic bridge. “Shake That Ass” sounds like a hilarious song you’d hear in a tween clothing store, but slowed down by an order of magnitude. I have no idea what group of people would enjoy this song, with the lyrics far too juvenile for enjoying on one side and the pace far too slow for a dance party on the other side.
Their third song, “Deadline,” is probably the best on the album. Its lyrics, though simple, discuss the dangerous relationship you can build with yourself if you allow yourself to fall into monotony, an obvious reference to long stretches of quarantine during the pandemic, but with elements that may also apply to drug abuse and self harm. With loss of control and lack of structure, or a “deadline,” Grouplove discusses how easy it can be to lose yourself. I thought this song was most reminiscent of their past works, with an impressive interlude, albeit a little noisy and confusing.
All in all, I don’t think Grouplove is fit for this new sound, if the “sound” can really be identified to begin with. Judging from the album title and the middle finger in the album cover, I wouldn’t be quite surprised in Grouplove wrote this album entirely for themselves, an indulgent delve into a new style after an awful year that curtailed their North American tour for their 2020 album, “Healer.” If that was their purpose, then I would owe them my apologies. If only I could get back my wasted time.