Album Review // WATERPARKS ‘FANDOM’
Transcending the limits of genres, Waterparks return with a highly ambitious and cohesive new album, FANDOM, marking their best work to date.
Following the alphabetical order of their catalogue, the “green era” of Waterparks brings us to FANDOM, a follow-up to their 2018 second album Entertainment.
Never ones to compromise their vision and shy away from musical experimentation, Waterparks have always done things their own way, and that continues with their third studio album. Jam-packed with references to the band’s history and their previous work, FANDOM is a study on music culture and fandom culture as well as insight into vocalist Awsten Knight’s mind and heart as he heals from a painful breakup. Channelling influences from rock, pop, punk, hip hop, alternative, indie, electronic, and even R&B, the trio blurs the lines between genres of music, defying expectations and challenging themselves in doing so.
Opening on a cinematic note, Cherry Red is a bold, classic rock-esque introduction to the album which gradually builds up from subtle sparkling synths to massive drums and electrifying guitars that propel the track forward. The song clocks just under one and a half minute, but damn does it sound big.
Rolling in with organic instruments and explosive choruses, Watch What Happens Next reminds us that Waterparks are first and foremost a rock band. Exploring the theme of the hypocrisy of fandom and success along the struggle to burst past the shackles of labels, genres, and our culture, the track is a sizzling blend of pop punk energy with a great dose of the trio’s signature unabashed honesty, unmistakable swagger, and tongue-in-cheek lyricism. Certainly one of the stand-out moments on the record.
Synthesising their own brand of off-kilter pop, Dream Boy is an arena-worthy bop that is sure to go down big in a live setting. Infectious and synth-heavy, the song addresses fan expectations once more and deals with a feeling of being built up into someone you can never live up to.
Hip hop-infused, [Reboot] finds the band enter a new sonic territory, impressing with Awsten’s rapid rap flow, spellbinding hook, and dark, moody beats. What’s more, the track turns the previous portrayal of ‘dream boy’ on its head. With lyrics “I never promised you your dream boy”, it hints at conceptual elements of the album, opening a wider space for interpretations. This reaches yet another dimension on Zone Out, a one-minute song that basically brings back the chorus of Dream Boy but sets it in a completely new sonic arrangement.
Fluctuating between heavy and melodic, War Crimes hits us with disruptive, angry parts which reflect Awsten’s emotional turmoil as he looks back at the band’s trajectory and their tour experiences. On the other hand, we’ve got acoustic-led I Miss Having Sex But At Least I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore, which takes ‘personal’ to the next level. Incorporating the recorded sound of stepping on seashells, it is a highly introspective and unfiltered song that only Waterparks could’ve written. And let’s not forget about the interjacent humour-inducing track, Group Chat, which features vocals from Otto and Geoff as well. Frankly, it has surpassed all my expectations.
A punchy post-breakup anthem, Turbulent is quite the curveball. With dark pulsating electronics and lyrics “So fuck yourself and fuck your feelings”, one can only hope to never have to experience a song written about them such as this one. Restoring a sense of Awsten’s self-worth after the breakup, it is a firepower of a track that once again brings his lyrical genius to the forefront, as the line “You had your own Pete Wentz and Patrick combined” will easily appease to all pop punk enthusiasts.
One of the best songs on the album, Easy To Hate already sounds like a classic Waterparks song. With lyrical manoeuvres dating back to 2016 track Stupid For You and lyrics “I’m color-coding my moods / You’re yellow, I’m natural blue / Let’s get together and be green like my insides”, the transition we experience with Easy To Hate is truly remarkable. Singing “My blue and green, they turned to red” and “I’ll change the colors on my head / Worn like a mood ring past my neck”, it adds layers of maturity to Awsten’s lyrical prowess.
Arguably the best Waterparks song to date, High Definition is a heartbreaking ballad-like track that sets a melancholic mood with its gentle vocals, autotuned transmissions, and accompanying handclaps. With lyrics “But I’ll just stay alone because alone is safer than with you” and “Who wants to be close with someone who always goes away?”, it shows a more vulnerable side to the band, as Awsten reflects on the effects that the tour life has on love and relationships.
Coming full circle with I Felt Young When We Met, the sonic loop brings us back to where it started. It is a monumental song that ends in the middle of a scream, falling into the instrumental sequence with a ticking clock smoothly leading us back to Cherry Red.
Not only is FANDOM a step up in the sound evolution of the band, but it’s also a big step forward in their personal lives. With twists and turns on every corner, the album captures the very quintessence of Waterparks, highlighting their true growth both as individuals and band.