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We’ve Listened To Waterparks’ New Album ‘FANDOM’, And This Is What It Sounds Like

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 10 October 2019 at 13.46

It's one of the most anticipated albums of the year - and we're giving you an inside scoop.

We're almost there. Tomorrow Waterparks drop their highly anticipated 'F' album 'FANDOM'.

Now, not to brag, but we at Rock Sound have heard the album. And we decided that we had an obligation to let you know what you're in for when it drops tomorrow. This will tide you over until midnight local time. God speed.

The song that pulls the curtain up on ‘FANDOM’ begins in typical Waterparks fashion. A patter of electronic keys melts into a screech of guitar, before layer upon layer of colourful sounds wash over you and Awsten bellows out “Cherry red, you know I’d die for you”. The song has a distinct ‘80s feel to it with whirls and fizzes bouncing around inside of your eardrum, before eventually fading out to silence. ‘FANDOM’ is well and truly here.

Although we’ve already heard this one, ‘Watch What Happens Next’ still feels like a definitive moment in terms of what ‘FANDOM’ stands for. A spiky riff holds together Awsten’s declarations that he wants "To be a millionaire before I’m thirty, but saying it out loud is probably gonna hurt me" - before an all-out power-pop assault cushions "You wanna hear my art, but only on your terms" in the jittering chorus. Beneath the music this is a critique of how Awsten feels as though he can’t do what he wants because of what his fans expect of him while also taking a swing at his former label AND the current culture surrounding pop music. It’s one of the most polarizing and powerful songs the band have ever penned and we’re only on track two.

We’ve heard this one as well. Taking cues from bubblegum pop and with plenty of cutesy vocal synths and tambourine shakes, ‘Dream Boy’ details the expectations that people have of Awsten as a love interest despite nobody actually knowing anything about the real him. Lyrics such as "I was born to be your favourite" and "You’ll never be alone with me" give off a toy-like quality - that Awsten is something that people would only love and cherish on their terms, rather than taking into account the way that he feels. It’s a song that despite its upbeat nature, feels rooted in sadness and confusion.

As a simple trickle of guitar quickly transforms into a belting riff and a catchy-as-sin synth line, for a moment this feels like a much more carefree and comfortable Waterparks. Though as Awsten declares "It’s too easy to hate you, when you’re hard to love", it’s clear this is a heart-torn anthem about dealing with a partner who doesn’t make life as loving it should be. Throw in "I’ll change the colours on my head/more like a mood ring past my neck", a line that completely changes the perception of what Awsten’s changing hair shade means, and we actually have a pretty bittersweet song wrapped in a classic pop jacket. Never say that Waterparks don’t keep you on your toes.

Another song that we’ve heard, but probably the most stark and vulnerable on the whole record. A low-fi bassline echoes as the hustle and bustle of people in the background blanket Awsten’s heart-aching opening line "I’d love to be in love with you enough to write a love song". The bassline bleeds into a tear-stained chord being strummed before a soft electronic drumbeat and patter of keys give the song a truly love torn core. Though it’s the line "It’s like who wants to be close to someone who always goes away" that truly cripples you and brings home the reality of how difficult it can be to find love when being away on tour is your livelihood. It all makes for a masterstroke of songwriting that sticks with you long after the guitar has faded.

On the other side of the coin to ‘High Definition’, Telephone feels like a proper ode to falling in love, albeit over text rather than face-to-face. Vibrant piano clashes against handclap mimicking drum beats as Awsten hopefully asks "Do you feel it too" when he feels as thought the recipient of his texts could be his "Future favourite regret". Throw in a hearty guitar solo at the tail end and some 8-bit style synth titters and we have a heart-fluttering jam for the ages. Yet as a brooding vocal sample at the end states "He’s losing his mind, and I’m reaping all the benefits", perhaps everything is not as cutesy and kitsch as it seems.

Aaaaand breathe. A moment’s respite from this barrage of synths and sadness is encapsulated in a 15-second clip of irreverent joy where the Awsten, Geoff and Otto states their names declare starkly that they’re all friends. It’s incredibly silly but also serves as a reminder that through all of the harder subject matter that lives within this record, at their core Waterparks are still one of the most fun and unpredictable bands we have in our world.

Oh, you bet that we have heard this one. A devilish guitar lick quickly snaps into a drum and bass style drumbeat as Awsten sneers "Fuck yourself and fuck your feelings" before stating "I’d unfuck you if I could". Waves of distortion wash over the scathing vocal more and more as the song progresses before a devastating conclusion leaves your heard spinning. If there was a song that you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of, this is the one. Iconic.

"All the girls in Los Angeles look like you from a distance" is the central line that this acoustic number is built around and a sign that even though Awsten has written songs about how angry he feels about his past relationship, it’s still tearing him apart in inside. It’s another example of how ‘FANDOM’ completely takes you by surprise. The emotions that Awsten is feeling, from jubilation to devastation, we experience with him. As he forlornly states "I kind of feel like I’ll never bloom again", we can’t help but feel exactly the same.

And we’re back to the bright and colourful sound of the first half of the record!  Though once more the intricate weaving of major key guitars and sun-speckled atmospheres don’t fully reflect the lyrical content. From taking swings at questions about where his band name is from and whether Awsten is actually his name to pondering how he seems to push away girls who may actually really like him before singing the title with what feels like a smile on his face, it feels more like of a personal realisation than a song. In it’s own off-kilter way, this is the biggest statement of intent on the whole record.

Tribal drums and pounding bass quickly transform into club-bothering beats and quivering atmospheres as Awsten states that he’s your "Knight in shining plastic" on this logical sequel to ‘TANTRUM’ from last year’s ‘Entertainment’. Sporadic and cathartic in equal measure, Awsten unloads the contents of his head in a three minute splurge, while forever reminding us that he "Loves it, just like I told you so".

12. '[REBOOT]'
We’ve heard this one as well, but it still stings just the same. Brooding electronics and dark synths swirl into one all-encompassing mesh of noise as Awsten carefully spits lyrical on any lingering doubts about how he feels about the relationship that inspired so many of the songs on ‘Entertainment’. "I never promised you your dream boy, I’m better as your chew toy" lingers in the air as it is mused over a despondent trap beat and you can’t help but feel the same distain.

13. 'WORST'
Continuing where ‘[REBOOT]’ left off, Awsten ponders the effect that his break-up has had on his mental health and the long term effects it will have even if he has put the whole situation to bed. Acoustic guitars glaze over clicked beats as he declares "Fuck you and your friends and I hope you know I mean that". It’s another moment on this record where such a flowery instrumental hides a much heavier core.

14. 'ZONE OUT'
A reprise of the chorus of ‘Dream Boy’ that provides another moment for us to take a breath and process the barrage of emotions that we have been handed over the previous 13 tracks. The simple keyboard patter almost turns this into a lullaby, but it’s important not to drift off just yet. We have one more song to delve into.

With the opening line "I said I love you to death, so I must be dead" signaling that this is going to be one more ode to the heartache that Awsten has gone through, we reach the conclusion of ‘FANDOM’ with much to ponder. As a classic Waterparks power chord rings out and Awsten states "You’re the reason I can’t sleep", everything comes to a sudden halt. Feedback kicks in and a ticking clock is all that we hear. Then a brooding synth line identical to the one we heard at the beginning of ‘Cherry Red’ builds, and then we go round again. It serves as a reminder that although the record is over, the things that Waterparks have touched on within it still live on and still stand true. It’s a testament to the innovative songwriting that’s littered throughout ‘FANDOM’ and a fitting end to one of the year’s most fascinating, ferocious and fanatical albums.

Order your world exclusive copy of 'FANDOM' by Waterparks on cassette below:

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