5 Seconds of Summer is not One Direction — the Australian four-piece, despite being pals with the best-selling boy band, eschews 1D’s pop focus and stresses the fact that they play their own instruments. However, 5 Seconds of Summer is also not Blink-182 or any other traditional “pop-punk” group — at this point in the band’s career, their songs and image carry way more sugar than spice, and the sneering edges have been sanded off to convey something family-friendly. Instead, 5 Seconds of Summer is a hybrid of the two musical ideas, a pop-punk act where the “pop” greatly outweighs the “punk” and the guitar riffs are plentiful but don’t cut hard enough to have parents concerned. The band’s aesthetic is actually pretty ingenious, inviting fans of both genres to come together, sing along to the pristine choruses and head-bang ever so slightly. It’s no wonder that 5 Seconds of Summer is one of the biggest new artists in mainstream music.
With “5 Seconds of Summer,” the group’s self-titled debut album, 5SOS also declares itself one of pop’s most promising new artists. Songs like “Don’t Stop,” “Good Girls,” “18” and “Mrs. All American” flash the type of tight songwriting and lyrical wit that bodes well for the young artists’ future, and the album’s production, largely helmed by John Feldmann (former leader of Goldfinger), is clean and compact. The heart-torn ballads don’t work quite as well, but album closer “Amnesia” connects with a maturity atypical of teenage performers. Best of all, “5 Seconds of Summer” does not include any grave missteps — some tracks clearly stand out, but the 12-song collection is meant to be (and can be) digested as a proper album, after 5SOS’ breakout “She Looks So Perfect” EP was released earlier this year.
Overall, “5 Seconds of Summer” is a delightful debut from a group that cannot be easily pigeonholed, and is worth paying attention to. Which track on 5 Seconds of Summer’s first album deserve multiple plays? Check out our track-by-track review of “5 Seconds of Summer”:
1. She Looks So Perfect
The de facto breakout hit, and rightfully so: “She Looks So Perfect” has the correct combination of chugging guitars, quotable lyrics and sing-along refrains to serve as an introduction to 5 Seconds of Summer, and to “5 Seconds of Summer.”
2. Don’t Stop
In the vein of Green Day’s “She” and Blink-182’s “All The Small Things,” “Don’t Stop” is 5SOS’ bid for a deceptively charming pop-punk anthem, with lyrics that are stickily sweet in their awkward flirtatiousness. The bridge could be more polished, but that hook is a highlight of the whole album.
3. Good Girls
Crashing guitars soundtrack the casually delivered verses of “Good Girls,” as the 5SOS boys snicker about a girl who “studies hard in her room/At least that’s what her parents assume.” Song number three on the album boasts a third straight ace chorus, with the cheeky line “Good girls are bad girls that haven’t been caught” serving as the fulcrum.
4. Kiss Me Kiss Me
The hook on “Kiss Me Kiss Me” may be a slight downturn from the preceding tracks on “5 Seconds of Summer,” but the earnest harmonies push the track list forward. Based on the lyrics, the song should really be titled “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me,” but lest we forget, 5 Seconds of Summer is not The Cure.
The entire appeal of 5 Seconds of Summer’s style is on display on “18,” a legitimately funny, insanely catchy ode to the frustration of waiting for adulthood when you’re still a punk kid. The guys effortlessly sell lines like “She’s got a naughty tattoo/In a place that I want to get to/But my mom still drives me to school,” bouncing along with the Ashton Irwin’s snappy percussion and sounding like they’re having a blast with the concept.
6. Everything I Didn’t Say
Swiveling away from the teenage humor of “18,” 5SOS aim for the listener’s emotions on “Everything I Didn’t Say,” a tale of romantic regret that even includes some faint string stabs on the bridge. The track glows with meticulous pop production, but the cliched lyrics prevent “Everything I Didn’t Say” from hitting its mark.
7. Beside You
5SOS’s debut album has clearly entered its contemplative stretch, as “Beside You” follows “Everything I Didn’t Say” as another dead-serious mid-tempo ballad about longing to be next to a girl. “Beside You” is more successful in pairing Luke Hemmings’ yearning vocals with a soaring melody, and the words aren’t clumsy enough to slow down the singer’s momentum.
8. End Up Here
After 5SOS admires American Apparel underwear on a girl in “She Looks So Perfect,” the female character likes the singer’s “Cobain shirt” on “End Up Here,” another rollicking standout with cleverly constructed lyrics. When the last chorus hits with handclaps instead of drums, the listener is obliged to clap right along.
9. Long Way Home
The tempo slows down slightly as the band tosses out a shiny pop-rock confection that wouldn’t sound out of place on a OneRepublic album (or, you know, a Supertramp greatest-hits collection). “Long Way Home” isn’t the most immediate song on “5 Seconds of Summer,” but fits in nicely as a transitional track.
10. Heartbreak Girl
A chunky guitar riff and talk of being “stuck in the friend zone again and again” mark this angst-ridden rock song, which offers another enjoyable hook but lacks the personality of the album’s early highlights.
11. Mrs. All American
The Australian quartet winks at its growing U.S. fan base with “Mrs. All American,” a cocky track about the attraction toward a gal who “relocated from New York a month ago.” The band’s inner playfulness is on full display here, as the guys try their best to pound on their chests without losing their geeky charm.
With a surprisingly affecting vocal performance and the most searing lyrics on the album, new single “Amnesia” establishes itself as 5 Seconds of Summer’s successful Serious Pose. Taking older listeners back to the relative heartache of dissolving high school romance, “Amnesia” demonstrates the versatility of 5SOS, and one wonders why it’s buried at the end of the group’s debut album.