Overall Score: 6/10 Hooks: 6/10 Ambition: 8/10 Execution: 4/10 Pros: An album built on a sincere love of the craft | Some poppy hooks that work their way into your brain Cons: Exists as an unfulfilling album in every avenue it explores | Surprisingly bland
It’s fair to say that Blink 182 have embraced the pop side of their pop punk formula in recent years. Not that there was a great deal of punk to begin with, this transition into an even more radio friendly unit shifter has been aided by the assistance of Grammy nominated producer and collaborator, Zakk Cervini. Cervini has made his name working with the titans of pop punk, as well as the provocateurs du jour, Poppy and Halsey, just to name a handful of artists he has been enlisted by, so it goes some way as to explaining the end result of Being As An Ocean’s gradual transformation being latest album, PROXY: An A.N.I.M.O Story. To put the onus of the change to almost completely pop on Cervini would be unfair as the seeds were being sown in previous album, Waiting for Morning to Come. Here with album five, the cocoon is well and truly shed and the creature that Being… find themselves as now is a far cry from that of debut album, Dear G-D…, and for some long term fans they may be totally unrecognisable.
Concept albums are ambitious and polarising. Results often vary as it takes a great degree of intelligence to make a cerebrally cohesive piece that both challenges and entertains the listener, and a great amount of creativity to construct a coherent narrative. There are classic concept albums like Pink Floyd’s The Wall that are rightly heralded as masterpieces, and then there are loosely conceptual, cynically labelled albums that draw in prospective listeners with a promise of depth that really isn’t there. So, take a wild guess into which category Being As An Ocean’s promised post apocalyptic, Sci fi epic falls. The concept promised by the band with opening salvo, Play Pretend, quickly withers into a background byline as the thematic falls to the wayside. In its place we get admittedly competently written pop songs that have a barely perceivable thread connecting them.
There is a shade of an attempt at narrative cohesion here; lyrical references to death, the afterlife, strife and suffering are all there but feel shoehorned in, though they are delivered with verve as the lyrical melodies worm their way into the primal pleasure centre of the brain. However, really the concept does feel like an afterthought, something to make an alluring, Coheed and Cambriaesque album title. There is no need to call this An A.N.I.M.O Story, as there is no real tale to be told: PROXY alone would have been a sufficient title that doesn’t promise things the band can’t deliver. What the band do deliver in spades is a tangible level of ambition. You can tell that there is a sincere attempt to make the songs as best they can, and not simply farm them out for the sake of creating money spinning singles. If this album were so cynically minded, you wouldn’t find the heavy guitars and almost screamed vocal break in See Your Face, as this immediately present warning signs and an impetus to switch off to people who don’t want rock mixing with their pop. In fact, the album’s flow creates a fairly jarring experience. As semi title track, A.N.I.M.O comes around, the momentum grinds to a crawl in a positively captivating manner. The poppy elements fade into the background as the drawling growl takes hold and the album begins its end on a somber note.
Pop, rock and metal have long been inextricably linked, whether you like it or not. From the sing a long melodies of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, through Metallica’s colloquially known Black Album, all the way to the likes of Issues, Fever 333 and indeed Being As An Ocean, pop music’s influence has had its place in rock. When it’s done well we get Enter Sandman, Paranoid and the entirety of Bon Jovi’s back catalogue. When it’s done poorly, we get a massive amount of outcry from fans of heavy music for such a betrayal of the genre and barely a look in from the mainstream. Sadly for this review, Being As An Ocean don’t quite fit into either category. The album is laudably ambitious, but fails in its execution. As pop its attempted subject matter is too serious, and as rock it is frankly too wet. The addition of faux rapped motifs that hark back to ya boi Mike Shinoda may mean that Linkin Park fans find something of value here – and that’s not an audience size to sniff at – but where this album will find its place is impossible to tell. Not progressive enough for fans of concept albums, maybe just about be hooky enough for pop fans, but definitely not heavy enough for rock and metal fans, it exists in a void by itself. In that sense it is a unique album, but for all the wrong reasons.