September 17, 2013 was a Tuesday, less than a month into my first year here at U of I. I plugged my phone into my iHome in my room on Saunders 1 and played “Shark Attack” off of GROUPLOVE’s then-new album Spreading Rumours. My new friend Julia – who incidentally has worked here with me on the WPGU web staff for the past few years – sat with me while I cleaned my room and was kindly asked by one of my floor mates to turn the volume down or shut my door. I was too excited by my favorite band’s new album to have any semblance of midday noise consideration.
That was freshman year, and like two bookends, GROUPLOVE’s new album, Big Mess, was just released at the beginning of my last semester here. I’ve been blasting “Welcome to Your Life” since it came out about a month ago. For Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi, it’s undoubtably about their newborn daughter, Willa. For drummer Ryan Rabin, it’s likely about marrying his wife Kyly in August. For me, it’s about graduation. “Welcome to your life, it could be your fantasy.” Parenthood, married life, actual life, working life, adult life…it’s all a different life. While it was their first single, making it easy to wax on about, the song simply deserves it. It’s the best song on the album by a few healthy miles with a pulsating beat that sounds like a children’s music toy. It’s uplifting and charging, perfectly describing the naive ambition felt with any relieved and anticipated change – the innocent bliss that mostly precedes eventually conquered disaster.
It’s hard for the album to compete when the first song stands alone so brilliantly. There are other stand-outs, such as “Enlighten Me,” and “Cannonball,” but the last few songs fall short compared to the peaks at the beginning.
GROUPLOVE pays homage to their younger selves with “Good Morning,” especially with the way Hooper croons along like an auctioneer listing off colors, clearly similar to one of the band’s first singles, “Colours.” The swerving beats frame another great song for Hooper’s vocals, which to this point in their career have been best showcased in “Didn’t Have To Go.” While that song is still Hooper’s magnum opus, the entirety of Big Mess has Hooper as a greater vocal power than she’s ever been. The oxymoronic delicate strength of her falsetto shine through more than ever in “Good Morning,” “Hollywood,” “Don’t Stop Making It Happen,” and “Spinning.” Considering how naturally her voice pairs with Zucconi’s, this increase is a welcome change.
While the last two tracks on the album, “Hollywood” and “Don’t Stop Making It Happen,” are perhaps the weakest, the juvenile and cliched lyricism isn’t enough to drag the rest of the album down. They show their fun sides, their clearly Nirvana inspired sides, their pushing-the-limits-of-rock-
with-some-techno-influences sides, and their typically underdeveloped serious sides which are better than ever before (which is the best place to be after four years of growth…says a college kid).
Spreading Rumours had thirteen songs on it, so after four years, this album seems a little short, but the songs that are worth loving are so strong that it makes it hard to be too sad. Hopefully we won’t have to wait three more years for 10 or 12 new songs, but this joyfully poignant album about growing up was certainly worth the wait.
Key Tracks: “Spinning,” “Enlighten Me,” “Welcome To Your Life”
RIYL: Young The Giant, Cold War Kids