I’m not convinced 5 Seconds of Summer is ever going to break the boy band stigma, but damn if they aren’t giving it the old college try. Youngblood, the band’s third studio album, was released on June 15 and shows us a band back from the dead and ready to change things up.
This is a group that went from modest YouTube fame to a Beatles-esque frenzy on the coattails of One Direction at their cultural peak. With the untimely hiatus of 1D came the disappearance of 5SOS, a band run ragged by their own fame (and an insane touring schedule).
What reemerged in late 2017 is a band trying something new. Having spent the better part of two years relaxing, the band also spent extensive studio time with various producers to create a departure from their previous catalogue of cheeky, hooky pop-punk.
The result is a band I almost don’t recognize. Luke Hemmings, Calum Hood, Michael Clifford and Ashton Irwin became household names on the cusp of their early 20s and it showed. However, the quartet that took the stage for their comeback tour is different. A little scruffier, a little more reserved but also clearly having fun- maybe even more so than their days of worldwide stadium tours.
After years of following this band, I’m not sure they’re ever going to write a song that incites screaming like “She Looks So Perfect” but I quickly realized that’s not the goal anymore. Youngblood is a surprising and welcome departure from the sound that made them famous.
The deluxe version of the album boasts 16 solid tracks and hardly any filler. 5SOS’ influences from the last few years are plain, but that really only enhances the band’s growth and talent. Their live performance brings their pop-punk roots to the forefront, but the album draws more on dreamy instrumentals, effects and 80s glitter.
It’s clear that these guys spent their time honing a craft that’s been overlooked by stereotyping naysayers. Youngblood is cohesive and strong. The boys are still singing about girls, but with the perspective that comes from a whirlwind few years of fame, mistakes and what ultimately comes off as maturation (albeit an exhausted kind of growing up).
Highlights include the indie pop single “Want You Back,” the spitfire pace of “Talk Fast” and the wistful “Woke Up in Japan.” With the preview tour including some of the new music, fans got a small taste of how this new sound will translate to a live setting.
5SOS has been trying to break a mold they’ve been in for almost five years. They tested the waters in spring 2018 with a brief club tour and, judging from how fast it sold out (an estimated three minutes), the fanaticism is still there. Atlas attended the Phoenix, AZ, stop of the tour and the screaming inside The Van Buren was no less deafening than the noise at One Direction’s last tour.
Think what you will of 5SOS, but this is a band that simply can’t be ignored. Regardless of their stereotype, they have strong pop-punk, guitar-driven roots and they definitely brought that back for these shows.
I was enormously impressed with the quality of the sound, despite the effort to drown it in a schizophrenic light show. Drummer Irwin clearly spent the last few years learning how to beat the hell out of his kit and he bashed away like there was no tomorrow. He’s also the band’s dedicated stage spokesperson and his banter and antics livened up the breakneck pace of the band’s set.
The comeback tour’s setlist only had 13 songs but it was a nice teaser for what promises to be a much larger-scale fall tour. 5SOS is now a band ready to take the leap into a career full of even more potential than before. The 1D generation is growing up and they are ready to continue growing with them. Don’t dismiss them out of hand- 5SOS are back, better than ever and very much here for the long haul.