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Real Friends - Composure (Album Review)

Wednesday, 01 August 2018 Written by Jennifer Geddes

Composure is something that you can lose or find, and it’s also the name of Real Friends’ third album. On this release the Illinois pop-punk band step up their game with high quality tracks that examine how people often feel one way but act another.

Around the time that the band were recording the album, lead singer Dan Lambton, who has bipolar disorder, stopped taking his medication and ended a long term relationship. The rest of the band really had to pull together to get him through this tough time, while working on the record with producer Mike Green.

Bass player Kyle Fasel had been the main lyrical focus for the first two albums - ‘Maybe This Place Is the Same and We're Just Changing’ in 2014 and ‘The Home Inside My Head’ in 2016 - but Lambton started writing words for the last release and has stepped up his contributions further here, resulting in an even split.

Lambton’s tracks reveal a man coming apart at the seams. “From the outside, I seem fine, on the inside, I'm still sick,” he sings on From The Outside. On Get By he reveals: “Turns out I came undone. You're not the only one.”

Fasel, on the other hand, is a man bound up too tightly. “Are my emotions hard to read? Seems I'm good at hiding,” he writes on Me First, while on Smiling on the Surface he says: “I’m used to pretending to be strong and clueless. Am I doing this right by you? I seem to be coming off as wrong and ruthless.”

Having two songwriters but only one singer can be confusing at times. Even though these men are writing around the same theme they are in very different places personally. Often, bands will play on the dynamic of two frontmen, and Modern Baseball’s ‘Holy Ghost’ took that to the extreme with both songwriters adopting different musical styles. That album lacked cohesion, but it was an interesting idea. That contrast for Real Friends, however, is lost and can sometimes leave the album feeling emotionally fractured.

Where the band have really pushed themselves is with their melodies. It’s evident in the quality of the tracks on ‘Composure’, with each possessing a catchy hook, interesting guitar riffs and lyrics that you can relate to. They pull from the long history of emo bands to get the job done: the melodicism Jimmy Eat World, the post-hardcore-influenced production of Thursday, the vocal performances of Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba and, on Unconditional Love, there's even the guitar licks of American Football.

Real Friends are very good at what they do, but it would be hard to list them among their heroes just yet. They would really need to do something that pushed the genre in a new direction to really stand out, but as the band seem to improve with every release they seem fully capable of making that impact.

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