Review: Above The Underground – Sonder

You wouldn’t believe the amount of pop-punk that passes through my inbox. From all corners of the world, I’m assaulted by a ton of bands that still manage to sound exactly the same. Which is why it’s always a real pleasure when something that stands head and shoulders above the rest manages to slip through – and that’s exactly what Above The Underground have done with Sonder.

In our review of Autumns, we noted that these guys had plenty of potential, but with the release of their debut LP, Above The Underground have managed to seriously up their game. Sonder is an absolute joy to listen to, and it’s fantastic to see just how far the band have progressed. The album’s structure is a lot more coherent, the songwriting is much stronger, and all in all, Above The Underground have managed to nail ten solid bangers, none of which will leave you disappointed.

The first half of the album is a bit more of your straight forward pop-punk fare, and it starts with the short, acoustic ‘Prologue’ before launching into ‘Return To Point Pleasant’, which demonstrates some great dual vocal work in the chorus. Although virtually all pop-punk is inspired by our friends from across the Atlantic, Above The Underground do a great job of not giving into the nasally vocals and cookie-cutter riffs; there’s plenty of sunshine, but with a little more bite. ‘Lavender Town Syndrome’ doesn’t do much to reinvent the wheel, but it’s easy listening; perfect for an afternoon drive with the sunroof cranked open and some proper posi lyrics to propel you along. Lyrically, the album is just as strong as than Autumns, if not stronger – each track is its own emotional journey, and embodies the confusion and excitement of youth in a deft and intelligent way.

But midway through, the album, and the band, begins to reach a turning point with ‘Cheer Up’ – a slow burning instrumental, reminiscent of that Northstar or Inkwell style, which rings out beautifully before becoming a launchpad for ‘Not Home’. Potentially the best track on the record, ‘Not Home’ is an aural assault of minor chords and perfectly timed palm mutes. ‘Shine’ is a beautiful acoustic ballad, melancholy yet uplifting. Although it’s much of the same, ‘Bring Me The Sun’ has some stellar woah’s in the chorus, before end track ‘Reprise’ hits like a freight train. Eschewing gang shouts in favour of a proper gang verse, the band show their skills off loud and proud and leave you ready to hit repeat.

Above The Underground have really proven themselves with Sonder. Will it be hard for them to replicate? Only time will tell, but for now, Sonder is a truly exciting record.

4.5 out of 5 high fives!

Above The Underground – Autumns [EP]

(Click the pic to download!)

One of Lazy Bear’s latest free(!) releases, Cheshire lads Above The Underground have come out swinging with their latest EP, Autumns. A rip roaring affair, ATU navigate the murky waters of the pop-punk genre with ease.

Straight off, Anchors, a track included on Lazy Bear’s previous compilation, grabs you by the throat and tosses you across the room with its passion and aggression. Some incredible gang vocals, which feature strongly through the rest of the EP, kick this song into gear and the intensity doesn’t let up at all. For All It’s Worth is strongly reminiscent of early Northstar – catchy choruses, a few great woah’s and a melody that’ll stick in your head for days. And yet, my favourite track of the EP is Under The Weather. Guaranteed to be the unsung hit of the year, it features some awesome drums, some killer hooks and breakdowns that’ll have you bouncing off the walls.

While ATU have found their formula and know what works, they’re not exactly averse to some experimentation either. Lights is an atmospheric interlude, showing off what effects the band has managed to master. Don’t be fooled though, it pays off for what makes a great intro into Close Your Eyes And Drive. The aforementioned track is a great one, but it’s where the EP should have ended. Final track, MMIX features some incredibly repetitive and rudimentary piano which jars with the guitars. The track just feels so much different to the rest of the EP and would better have been included in a full length album.

While the EP wears its influences on its sleeve (many tracks sounding fairly akin to You Me At Six, Northstar and New Found Glory), Autumns is still a fantastic release and in many ways, its familiarity makes it all the more endearing. Perfect to brighten up this (so far) weary, rainy June, Above The Underground certainly deserve your time and your love.

4 out of 5 high fives!