Atlanta-based, power-pop meets 90’s indie rock band Grouplove may have come on the scene in 2011 declaring that we should “Never Trust a Happy Song,” but their strong suit has always been those big, high-energy sing-along choruses carried by husband-and-wife lead vocalists, Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper. Here on their 6th full-length release in a dozen years, the quintet is produced for the first time by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Death Cab For Cutie), where they continue to address the Big Mess (2016) of modern life, the struggle to express one’s innate individuality and common humanity in the current context. In addition to Hooper and Zucconi, who besides sharing lead vocals contribute keyboards and rhythm guitar respectively, Grouplove includes the other original member, lead guitarist Andrew Wessen, and Daniel Gleason on bass since 2014, and drummer Ben Homola who joined in 2017.
I Want It All Right Now opens with “All,” with the slower, introspective verses dealing with isolation and longing, and the bolder, faster chorus which gets louder by the end, the combined vocals suggesting a sense of community in the chant “I wanna have a good time, wanna be fine wine/I want it all right now.” Having called out the myth that any single person can “have it all,” Zucconi concludes that what he actually has in his life and family is quite enough: “I wanna take a long ride with you by my side/I wanna be alright now.” The band’s two other early singles take on that social isolation and lack of fulfillment head on. The bold pop of “Hello” grabs the listener by the shirt collar and demands we look up at one another and announce “hey, hello, I need to see a smile,” because for most of us, only time we see our true self is “only in the morning when I have my cup of coffee.” As for “Cheese,” with the goofy title together with slow/fast, soft/loud 90’s feel that borrows from bands like Pixies and The Flaming Lips, it’s a reminder that we can be our own worst enemies (“I’m trying to stay out of my own damn way,”), and that we should hold on to the things that matter.
Of course, there are quieter, more introspective songs here too, but Grouplove tends to put its best foot forward on the shouters, and the vocals are recorded in a way that gives the anthemic pop rockers that vibrant, live in-your-face feel that made the band a perfect candidate to open Pink’s stadium rock shows that also feature major acts like Brandi Carlisle and Pat Benatar. The three above, many of their past hits, and “Tryin’,” a new rocker here that declares the band’s commitment to “keep fighting and put in the effort to make the world a better place to live in,” suggests Zucconi in the band’s album release bio. Similarly, “Climb” is an electro-pop promise to fans who may be going it alone in life, as Hooper sings, the band is always going to be there “to climb inside your head,” their music will keep you company. In The Breeders’ influenced “Malachi,” Hooper seems to be expressing a sense of existential suffering that’s biblical in proportion, given the title, but this bit of resistance, she says in the bio is an opening in “the overall arc of healing.”
In his own expression of angst, Zucconi slows things down a bit on a couple that leave room in the mix for a bit more of Wessen’s guitar. In “Eyes,” where “it’s love” that helps shake off all that is “cloudy and grey.” “Wall,” which closes out the album, finds Zucconi “sick of all this shit/And everyone who’s buying it,” but even though “rock and roll, no, you won’t save me.” But the music does bring us together, and Wesson’s solo is sublime, but it’s that sense of community and the love of human connection that brings us through to the other side, as he sings, “promise me that we will never let life beat us down.” It’s these moments of human honesty and clarity in both Zucconi and Hooper’s lyrics that carve out a believable path of resistance and resilience against the pressing gravity of daily life. Having dug deeper, and sharing more honestly, Grouplove’s anthemic songs of celebration feel less naïve as they seek to lift and revitalize their fans, their determined rants ring all the more true to genuine life experiences and the reality we all share.
“Hello” / “Cheese” / “All”
ARTISTS WITH SIMILAR FIRE
The Breeders / The Flaming Lips / Arcade Fire
GROUPLOVE REVIEW HISTORY
Big Mess (2016)
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