The Front Bottoms' 'In Sickness & in Flames' Is Head-Scratching in All the Right Ways

BY Eva ZhuPublished Aug 19, 2020

On In Sickness & in Flames, the Front Bottoms might have finally given fans the less polished album of their dreams.

Since the release of Back on Top in 2015, fans have wanted the band to go back to their roots. They hated how overproduced and formulaic songs sounded. They weren't the rambling stories fans had fallen in love with on the Front Bottom's first two albums.

The New Jersey duo ditch the ultra-clean sound on this album, opting instead for spoken word bridges, experimental instrumentals, and fewer lyrics about getting stoned.

"everyone blooms," a timely reminder to take life at your own place, sounds like a tried and true Front Bottoms song, save for the screamed background vocals. It aptly sounds like two people are singing "Everyone blooms in their own time / Some far ahead, some far behind" to one another.

The first of many spoken word bridges appears on "camouflage," a song about being overworked and yearning to go home. Musicians often don't discuss how burnt out they are, but Brian Sella lays it out on this depressing bridge, saying "I gotta make a commitment / And it's stressing me out / One I'm gonna have to live with / Till I'm under the ground." Someone let this man take a vacation.

"the truth" and "montgomery forever" both have head-scratching spoken word passages. One talks about going on a road trip, while on the other, Sella proclaims over an eerie piano tune that he's on "no drugs." Neither seem connected to the two songs' main messages.

Musically, "new song d" and "Fairbanks, Alaska" are gems. The former features rolling snare drums, echoes, and the catchiest chorus on the entire album. The latter is built on power chords reminiscent of Talon of the Hawk and a driving kick drum backbone. Crooning "aah-ooh" vocals break up the urgency.

As each track is around four minutes long, the album begins to feel drawn on by "love at first sight." It's the slowest song and it never seems to end.

On In Sickness & in Flames, the Front Bottoms decided to let their stream of consciousness dictate the majority of the 12 songs on this album, it's harder to decipher what many of them even mean. It's infuriating, but that's what also why band has such a dedicated fanbase.
(Fueled by Ramen)

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