Strange Love EP
Release Date: March 29, 2019
Label: Everything Opposite/BMG
Review by Jared Stossel
When two worlds collide in a particular genre, the results can be satisfactory, yet not always exemplary. It’s fair to say that listeners’ expectations were completely thrown off just a month ago, when Blink-182 frontman (well, one of them) Mark Hoppus and All Time Low frontman Alex Gaskarth announced that they would be joining forces for a project unlike anything they had worked on before: an alternative side project dubbed Simple Creatures. The duo’s consummate debut single, “Drug”, indicated a catchy, pop-punk hook coupled with the electro-tinged alt-pop that is permeating the airwaves of modern alternative radio. It became clear that while fans could expect great music, this is a project where anything can happen. This isn’t just an offshoot of two of pop-punk’s finest looking to cash in on a contemporary trend in alternative music; this is different, and something special is happening throughout the six tracks that make up their debut EP, Strange Love.
The first and last tracks of the EP, the aforementioned “Drug” and the groove-laden “Lucy”, are perfect bookends. Both offer the brightest moments of the six-track release, with the term “brightest” referring to the overall tone of each song. The tracks that make up the core are calmer, and almost a bit somber, in nature. The eponymous second track is reminiscent of a summer hit you would hear a thousand times over at an EDM festival. “How To Live” is the biggest departure from rock that Gaskarth and Hoppus have embarked on to date, as vibrant filter-heavy synth lines intertwine with a drum-machine-powered beat and emotive lyrics. “Adrenaline” picks things up with one of the catchiest melodies of the bunch, with Hoppus and Gaskarth alternating vocal lines that build up into a chorus you’ll be humming for days. “Ether” feels like the companion piece to “How To Live”, with the former asserting a dark pop stance that alternates between acoustic guitar strums and 808 beats.
It became clear a long time ago that both Blink-182 and All Time Low were venturing out of their traditional pop-punk familiarities, yet they weren’t completely abandoning. If you haven’t heard the news yet, it’s normal for bands to want to experiment outside of the genres they’ve been living in. All Time Low’s Last Young Renegades, as well as their more recent standalone singles like “Everything Is Fine” and “Birthday” showed the band flirting with the idea of becoming a full fledged pop band. Blink-182’s California went beyond what anyone expected of them genre-wise, making an album that took them into completely new territory, almost redefining what it means to be in a “pop-punk” band. But it’s a compelling concept to take two of the genres most beloved songwriters, put them together, and see what they can create. Whether Simple Creatures remains a long time solo project that shows them exercising their creativity and songwriting skills, or a conceptualization created just to blow off some steam in between albums from their main bands, the result is a remarkable venture into the current landscape of alt-pop that’s inhabiting the airwaves. For this one, turn the volume all the way up.