The Flatliners are the definition of resolve and endurance. After making a splash with their ska-infused debut, 2005’s Destroy to Create, they have steadily honed their craft over 5 subsequent albums with their most recent being 2013’s Dead Language (discounting 2015’s B-sides collection Division of Spoils). Through constant touring and their unwavering adherence to a steadfast punk-rock ethos the band have created a solid fanbase that appreciate their dedicated, no-nonsense approach and unrelenting spirit. However a band cannot run on enthusiasm alone. After spending most of their adult lives touring and promoting, the band quickly came to the realization that they needed a break. Some time away to recapture that spark that made them an enduring punk band of the people.
It soon becomes apparent that that time away has been spent polishing the simple craft of writing tight arena ready rockers. Clearly evident on first song, “Mammals” which, after a brooding opening, states its intentions defiantly as it quickly darts to a razor sharp, buzzing chorus. It contains the bright and spiky pop-punk style they are know for but with a distinct edge, reminiscent of mid-period Against Me!. “Hang My Head” sees the band continue to strike that perfect balance between their poppy and caustic sides. The guitars ring rather than churn with the song quickly bounding to a delirious, anthemic chorus. It sounds supremely confident with the sturt and the swagger of a band who have full faith in what they are doing. “Nicotine Lips” sounds like a carry over from Dead Language, featuring energetic distorted power chords and catchy shout-a-long ‘woahs-woahs’. In the context of the album it provides the connective tissue between this and and their previous work. Nevertheless, it is striking how different the overall sound is on Inviting Light from what the band are known for.
The choppier, heavier songs that made up many of 2010’s Cavalcade’s finest moments are largely absent. Instead, the album is characterised by a fuller, broader sound with the focus on songcraft rather than the foot down, pop-punk that saw them draw comparisons with Dead To Me and Anti-Flag. For example, “Indoors,” rather surprisingly, finds them build a song on similar foundations to those of grunge stalwarts Pearl Jam. It’s a mid-tempo rocker assembled with spacious, echoing riffs and hefty 90s power chords before beating down the door to a yearning, powerful chorus. It’s here that frontman, Chris Cresswell, is really able to demonstrate how his voice has developed into a potent and commanding force whilst retaining that slightly bruised, insecure edge. Those Pearl Jam comparisons continue with “Unconditional Love” with the band channeling the Seattle band’s love of slightly more unorthodox and off-beat arrangements. It sees the band challenging their sound a little, showing a previously unheard experimental side. On the whole, these moments provide the triumphant backbone of the album.
Although, these moments do show the band developing their sound, they still fit the mould of mid-paced rockers, aimed squarely at the heart. While effective, at times they are in danger of feeling a little repetitive and formulaic as strummed guitars quickly lead to another big, rousing chorus. Songs such as “Burn Out Again,” “Infinite Wisdom,” and closer “No Roads” all follow a similarly worn blueprint. They lack the vitality of songs from their back catalogue, too often feeling like the safe option. Remarkably, it is the plaintive, tender punk ballad “Chameleon Skin,” which sees the band wholly succeed in finding a new formula. Cresswell’s wistful cries of “I don’t wanna remember who I am” are a stirring addition that will touch the heart of even the most hardened punk.
While Inviting Light is not a seismic shift, there is an obvious progression from their melodic pop-punk sound. It’s still loud and proud but it sees the band enter a more mature phase of their career. The sound is clearer and more accessible than any of their previous work with the abrasive edges polished down. Everything is carefully constructed with each song crafted to highlight the band’s ability to write hungry, anthemic choruses. However, the over reliance on mid-tempo rockers can get a little wearing. All in all Inviting Light is a testament to taking a step back and re-engaging with what you want from your band. It sees the band entering a new phase of their careers whilst ably demonstrating that they are in it for the long haul.
3.5 / 5 Stars