So, what did we think of Waterparks' second effort?
Nailing your second album is one of the toughest challenges in music.
Not only do you have to follow up a bunch of songs you spent months, maybe years perfecting, but you’ve got to do it in the glare of a spotlight that, in all likelihood, wasn’t even there the first time around. Everyone is expecting greatness. It’s no wonder the whole thing often goes so wrong.
That’s how the script usually runs… but not for Waterparks. Despite the pressures of soaring from tiny Houston clubs to sold out shows across the globe in what feels like the blink of an eye, the trio have returned with 10 songs just as vibrant, surprising and borderline-scarily addictive as anyone could hope for. In their hands, it almost seems easy.
If ‘Double Dare’ was a kaleidoscopic sugar-rush of noise and melody, ‘Entertainment’ is more of a lucky dip - but not in a bad way. Whether it’s the jagged synth-bleeps that kick off ‘11:11’ (probably the only moment on the record that resembles a trap song) or the beautifully spare acoustic balladry of ‘Lucky People’, this is the sound of frontman Awsten Knight truly letting himself off the creative leash. Emotionally too, it runs the gamut: from euphoria to anxiety and even fury, all packaged up in Awsten’s uniquely relatable lyrics.
From the start, it’s clear that all bets are off. The quirky, acoustic guitar and synth-driven ‘Peach (Lobotomy)’ distils the yearning and complexity of a long-distance relationship into three-and-a-half minutes of alt-pop gold, while ‘Rare’ carries the torch of ‘Double Dare’: with a gorgeous, stadium-sized chorus and some classic lines from Awsten (“My tired thoughts don’t take vacations”, “I save my metaphors for rainy days”). And whether he’s riffing on Bieber (“Your momma likes me and she doesn’t like anyone”) or opening his heart, ‘We Need To Talk’ marks an exciting left-turn; ditching the guitars for slow, glitchy beats and almost nursery-rhyme-like melodies. Yet it all works.
There are even bigger surprises in store on the record’s second half. In particular, ‘TANTRUM’ and ‘Crybaby’ bear sides of Awsten that he’s rarely shown on record before. The former is an undeniable high-point of ‘Entertainment’: a breathless, brilliantly cutting commentary on how the frontman has been perceived, and a savage takedown of the people who’ve tried to exploit or dismiss him. Awsten, Otto and Geoff have rarely sounded better. On the other hand, ‘Crybaby’, introduces more notes of doubt and sadness. With its eerie electronics and oddly muted chorus, it’s the most haunting thing they’ve ever done, but will still take up constant rotation in your head.
Factor in the brilliant pop-rock of ‘Not Warriors’ - with a chorus that’s just the right balance of sweet, poppy and memorable - and you’ve got an album that should catapult Waterparks higher and further than ever before. By taking some huge risks and refusing to be to tied to any one lane, they’ve proved every doubter wrong. Welcome to the future.