This ROAM article was written by Ben Kendall, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.
Pop-punk is perhaps one of the biggest rock genres ever to be established. Back in the 90’s and early 00’s it was an exciting and captivating style of music that everyone and their mothers were listening too – with acts such as Green Day, The Offspring and Bad Religion in the early 90’s – and by the turn of the century where it achieved its biggest mainstream success with acts like Blink-182, Sum 41 and New Found Glory. We’re now heading into the latter half of the 2010’s and there’s been a rebirth in the decade of bold new pop-punk acts (such as The Story So Far, Man Overboard and State Champs) to attract a new generation of troubled adolescent youths to release their angst through, and live it up while they’re young with long summer days of reckless fun, young love, skateboarding and going to shows.
Formed in 2012, naming the band after a song of the same name by The Story So Far, ROAM almost immediately made themselves known in the pop-punk world with 3 EP releases, and are only further laying the groundwork as one of the top bands to meet the likes of fellow UK pop-punkers Neck Deep in the ‘elite’ of the UK pop-punk scene. ‘Backbone’ is the band’s first full-length release, and arguably there’s a lot of weight on them to establish themselves firmly with this record. As the debut album, it holds the be-all and end-all – they can complete the groundwork almost instantaneously, or they can fall flat from the weight and remain in the background behind the other eager up-and-coming acts.
“Thanks for tuning in, next up, hailing all the way from the south of the UK, you asked for it, ROAM” is how ROAM flamboyantly introduce themselves and set the tone for their flashy, lively-infectious brand of pop-punk. The content ROAM have written on ‘Backbone’ is what you’d expect from a standard pop-punk record – chugging powerchords, catchy guitar riffs and vocal melodies, energetic fast drum beats and all-in-all songs that make you want to mosh at their shows with your friends and passionately scream their lyrics to them, abusing your lungs in the process.
The tracks are led by the duo shout-singing vocals of Alex Costello and Alex Adam, who have a neat chemistry together as they switch back and forth in driving the songs with constant intensity, rarely leaving a moment for your pumped-up mood to slip, and your interest to be swept off your toes – tracks like ‘Hopeless Case’ and ‘Deadweight [feat. Matt Wilson from Set Your Goals]’ are where this is most evident, and are both the most killer tracks of the record. They especially shine through in the emo-esque passages of the songs (such as in ‘Bloodline’, ‘Tracks’ and ‘Tell Me’), only backed by soft guitar melodies, they refrain from falling into the ‘dull-zone’ and keep the emotion head-strong, further propelling the power of the tracks for a more intimate and moving listen.
The songs also contain heartfelt shouting in the bridges, most prominent in tracks like ‘Head Rush’ and ‘R.I.P In Peace’ which further boost the passion and intensity, making perfect tracks to listen to when feeling angry over a relationship or particularly ‘angsty’ on any given day. The band had the opportunity here to further develop, and maybe experiment, on these qualities of the album, but instead they keep in line with the standard pop-punk criteria. However, this isn’t naturally a bad thing, as the tracks still stand firmly enough as they are, but the potential was there for something greater.
It’s clear that ROAM intended to make a solid 100% pop-punk record, and for the most part that’s what they’ve achieved with ‘Backbone’. When listening to the album from start to finish, it’s easily noticeable how similar the lead guitar riffs sound in many of the tracks, which can cause some songs to be poisonous ‘fillers’ that can easily be forgotten and breezed by when listening. It can also be slightly disappointing if you particularly focus on the content as a whole while listening, but for their main target audience, it won’t be that big of a deal for them as they’re still satisfying tracks which provide everything they want in them.
Also, as a band from the UK, some parts of the album are slightly strange and cringey to listen to, as it sounds like they’re trying a bit too hard to obtain that classic ‘whiny-American’ vocal, common in many American pop-punk bands, in their tone of voice. If you listen closely you can almost hear the conflict between their native British-accents and the overseas voice they take upon while singing, but again this doesn’t completely affect the album as a whole, but can be a slight bug noticeable, peeping in the background.
‘Backbone’ isn’t necessarily the most audacious or musically distinctive record. But for what ROAM intended to create, they have succeeded in securely establishing themselves as one of the top pop-punk bands of today, and this may be the beginning of something big and promising for the band…
‘Backbone’ is out on the 22nd January 2016 via Hopeless Records.