With its eternal ties to awkward post-adolescent angst, pop-punk is not a genre that’s meant to carry a band through a full career. So it’s not surprising that on their third album, 5 Seconds of Summer have already aged out of the sound that built their success. Instead, Youngblood goes full pop, leaning into some Eighties inflection and foregoing the bratty, DGAF ethos of their earlier work.
The album starts off with its two lead singles: the latter-day Fall Out Boy-esque title track and the undeniably catchy, groovy “Want You Back.” The rest of the LP edges more towards the breezy heartbreak pop of the latter as opposed to the faux-danger of the former. Songs like “Lie to Me,” “Better Man” and “Moving Along” are highlights, each a power-pop gem with great hooks and even better riffs. The standout is “Valentine,” co-written pop savant Justin Tranter. A bit of goth-y post-punk delivery on a chorus where they sing about “chocolate éclairs” is a deliciously weird treat.
A downside of the new sound is that the boys lose a little bit of the spunk that made them big in the first place. The snottiness of pop-punk highlighted their natural humor, and while they’ve certainly grown as musicians, singers and writers, a bit of that goofy charm is missing.
It doesn’t help that 5SOS seems a bit broken down by the last few years of fast fame and even faster living. Several songs reflect on how lonely the hard partying lifestyle can be, which feels premature coming from a group of dudes who are all under the age of 25. It doesn’t help that these musings are often cloying and cliché: “A house that’s full of everything we wanted/But it’s an empty home/Empty home,” they offer in the first verse of “More.” The post-party hangover tune “Woke Up in Japan” deliverer a more effective version of the same debauched remorse, hitting a lackadaisical groove and honing in on the simplicity an effective pop track thrives on.
It’s much too soon for a band like this to be exhausted by the glitz. But once they recover some of their youthful self-awareness, 5SOS could be on track to let this new sound carry them into a whole new era of their career.