History is littered with rock bands adapting or dishevelling due to the advent of the synthesiser. Emotional Creature, the second album of Chicago power pop outfit Beach Bunny, has been noted as the band’s first use of synth, injecting itself into Gravity like a painter swimming in a pool of new colours, before backing heart-wrenching power ballad Scream; a loving railing to place one’s hand onto, as the staircase – or in this case, the nostalgia of adoration – crumbles.
But while Scream prevails, not just dabbling but unleashing synthesisers like a swaying sword, the fabric of Emotional Creature is fresh out of the garage; rock in totality with a little studio sauce implemented with listenability in mind. Sure, what is either woodwind, or a synth pad set to emulate woodwind, echoes through the backing of Infinity Room like a collective of distant voices, but Beach Bunny’s latest is simply a fresh attempt at linking arms both rock and pop.
The answer is “yes”, assuming your question is “does it work?”. The reckless abandon of young adulthood combines dispositions that mourn and hope, breezing through the verses of Karaoke with the wide-eyed stares of checking out new, foreign locale, before singer Lili Trifilio’s voice sweetly thunders on the chorus.
Entropy – and the album itself, as it is its opener – begins muffled and filtered, as if studio magic is sure to be sprinkled. But despite the pop potential of its melodies (so many lines form into pronounced four-note melodies that end on a peppily-shouted final syllable), it’s a fairly standardised rocker. However, Trifilio is always thinking outside the box, and the song links itself to finale Love Song by sharing the line “running away through the rain makes your socks wet”, over a snap transition in which bombastic chord progressions turn to sentimentality, succumbing to a multi-faceted climax suited to a rock opera.
Pop rock melodies, from the indie chomp of Screaming Females to chart cheer of Avril Lavigne, continue through the bursting hearts of Deadweight, combining heavily-accented one-syllable yelps with a tropical indie pop detour as the song reaches its conclusion. Trifilio loves emphasising one specific word or syllable, continuing to do so on Eventually, which is strangely reminiscent of PJ Harvey’s The Last Living Rose.
It always comes back to Trifilio; even as Matt Henkels’ guitar riff emerges on Fire Escape like a ripple, it simply previews the humanising wobble in Trifilio’s voice. But sell the other bandmembers short and it’ll be your doom; you need a kick-ass troop to back up Trifilio’s emotional flames, which is achieved as the glee of the phrase “baby you’re my oxygen” is matched by burning rhythms on Oxygen.
In tune with the great pop rock line-ups of yesteryear, Weeds features the kind of melody that would’ve been batted loudly, physically and fearfully by a ‘90s-‘00s pop punk band – ONE-TWO, ONE-TWO, ONE-TWO, one-two-three-four. But dare I say, Trifilio’s lyrics are far smarter than those of the bands that likely influenced her? Firstly the line “cause he’s not the problem, the problem is you think / you’re only viable for love when someone makes you feel complete”, then, the use of metaphor, comparing one’s environment sparking their inability to grow to a flower’s inability to blossom in a garden full of weeds.
The depth is there, though Gone reads like a less personable outtake from last year’s Blame Game EP, sweetly sung as if enamoured with the scroll the singer is reading from, but laid-back in its potency.
But little about Beach Bunny is laid-back. Emotional Creature is just as urgent as debut album Honeymoon, whilst reaching for the same melodic strives. Lili Trifilio’s bearings resonate from her first to final chirps, while the necessary beastly backing is supplied by her pals.