The Front Bottoms is a 4-man Indie rock group from Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Since their formation in 2007, they have released numerous EP’s and 5 studio albums. Their 3rd album, titled The Front Bottoms, helped them rise to prominence in the Indie/Pop Punk community.

On September 18th, the world was treated to The Front Bottoms’ 5th Studio Album: Back on Top. However, it seems that, “Back to the Middle” would have been a more fitting title. Though filled with some hidden gems, vocalist Brian Sella and the rest of the crew played it a little safe this time around.

The album commences with “Motorcycle”, a light-hearted mix of electronic undertones and a hint off gospel hymn elements in the intro and the outro. The lyrics, naturally, are filled with teen angst and stanzas describing past loves gone wrong. The song as a whole was a little weak for an opening track.

The soft pop, almost synthesized tone continues with “Help” and “Ginger.”After listening to the first few tracks, I began to wonder where the unique, unmerciful, and classic Front Bottoms sound had gone. For a band known for their raw lyrics and strong belting choruses, they seemed to have been tamed in this album by their new record company, Fueled By Ramen. But I found the style I was used to from The Front Bottoms in “Summer Shandy,” “Laugh Till I Cry,” and “West Virginia.”

“Summer Shandy,” the 2nd song on the album, is a softer ballad that still showcases Sella’s talkative and emotional song style while also adding in an impressive guitar solo by guitarist Ciaran O’Donnell. The bridge adds a little pep to the piece that is needed by the end of the track.

“Laugh Till I Cry,” smack dab in the middle of the album, plays like a classic The Front Bottoms song: deep lyrics with some important belting moments. “I laugh till I cry, I party all of the time, I must have liked it a couple years ago…” addresses the deeper, darker undertone of the upbeat, seemingly happy-go-lucky musical background. The Front Bottoms are known for a loud, in your face chorus and this song definitely delivers.

“West Virginia,” the first single released from the album in June, is well worth waiting for. As the second to last track, it closes out the album well. The piece is a meaningful, almost desperate love song with hard hitting guitar and impressive backing. How can you hold back tears after hearing “Love of my life, gone forever. Love of my life, gone for good.”

All in all, the album falls short of the high expectations set by The Front Bottoms and Talon of the Hawk (their last two albums). The way this album was mixed and recorded lost their charm and raw, audible emotion. This set of songs did not take risks and is merely a stepping stone, bridging the gap between their early, abstract sound and their new, cleaned up version. Solid effort was put into this album, however fans of their earlier work may be disappointed.