Most of us spend a good chunk of our adolescent years trying to ‘find ourselves.’ The same can be said for a lot of musicians and bands who may begin as one thing and through trials and tribulations, become something totally different. We feel it’s safe to say that this is the case for our favorites in Hey Violet, who began as a hard-rock all female Cherri Bomb and have slowly faded to a saturated hard pop, with fleeting moments of pop-punk trying to stick.
The band has finally released their debut album (as Hey Violet) via Hey or Hi Records. Under their original moniker Cherri Bomb, the band released This Is The End Of Control back in 2012, but fans have been patiently waiting for an official release from the reimagined version of this band, whose last release (not counting singles) was a 5-track EP in 2015. From The Outside is just that – unlike the band’s previous majority pop-punk sound to something a little less rock ‘n’ roll, with electro pop twinges, giving you something you’ll want to both dance and rock out to.
From The Outside offers twelve tracks, though sadly only the last three on the tracklisting are previously unheard. Is this detrimental to their release? Not exactly. Several of these tracks could only be listened to by recorded live versions, so to finally have studio quality mastered tracks only makes us even more excited to listen and sing along to tracks we were fortunate enough to see performed live several months ago… like reliving their performances all over again.
Most impressive is the band’s opening pick: “Break My Heart.” This was one of our absolute favorites when we caught Hey Violet on tour, but the version on the album has a bunch of extra bells and whistles that had been left out in live productions. The chorus gets a total makeover with EDM-type beats/bass drops paired with vocalists Rena Lovelis’ sugary sweet falsetto. Is it a bit too much? We could see how one would think so – but we don’t mind the added noise as it doesn’t overpower Rena’s vocal capabilities. Rena Lovelis definitely has a playful likeliness to her interesting vocals, one that could stand a chance alongside the work of Gwen Stefani or Joan Jett, if only the band could find their way back away from the typical antics and saturation artists like Halsey or Charli XCX have popularized.
It seems as though Hey Violet pulled inspiration from all the latest trends and some of today’s best artists. There are flashes of what could be compared to artists such as Taylor Swift or Lorde… Even the Pretty Little Liars and a Melanie Martinez similarity can be heard in “Like Lovers Do.” Is this a bad thing? While it takes away from making the album feel personal and original, we don’t hate it. Sure, it all seems a bit stereotypical and predictable, but this kind of ‘edgy’ pop sells. Electro pop beats are all the rage today, and Hey Violet remains relevant by taking the route too tempting by most these days in music.
Our biggest concern with this release is the lyrics seem to be a bit too mature for what will probably be the marketed audience. We’ve been to six Hey Violet shows and can confirm that the majority of those in the crowd are young females – and while the album does offer a fun little anthem to tell us it’s okay to be a little out of place (see “O.D.D.”), or songs that feel written from an authentic place (see: “Hoodie”)– too many of the songs feature lyrics or overall themes that aren’t exactly positive messages for younger females. “Guys My Age,” plays on the idea that you can only be satisfied by older men (whether it’s due to age or immaturity). “My Consequence” may seem innocent enough about love but with lines such as “To the darkest places, it’s too late no one can save us” and “Take your RAZOR love / Run it down my skin / If I bleed too much…” it’s easy to miss that they’re singing about a relationship and blurring a little too closely on self-harm. Even the fun and funky “Brand New Moves” has lyrics too provocative to ignore despite Ian’s groovy bass lines and Nia Lovelis’ incredible drums. Sure, we’re aware that girls (and boys) are dealing with ‘mature’ situations at younger ages more and more these days, but it’s always nice to see them reflected upon in music in a positive light, instead of something trying too hard to be seductive that it comes off smarmy and cheap.
“Guys My Age,” plays on the idea that you can only be satisfied by older men (whether it’s due to age or immaturity). “My Consequence” may seem innocent enough about love but with lines such as “To the darkest places, it’s too late no one can save us” and “Take your RAZOR love / Run it down my skin / If I bleed too much…” it’s easy to miss that they’re singing about a relationship and blurring a little too closely on self-harm. Even the fun and funky “Brand New Moves” (which best displays the band’s ability to break from the norm) has lyrics too provocative to ignore despite Ian’s groovy bass lines and Nia Lovelis’ incredible drums. And I bet we’ve all heard “Fuqboi” at one point or another…which may seem harmless…until an amphitheater of 12-year-olds are screaming “HE’S A FUCKBOY” because F-U-Q may be cute in the title, but we all know what they’re really saying. Sure, we’re aware that girls (and boys) are dealing with ‘mature’ situations at younger ages more and more these days, but it’s always nice to see them reflected upon in music in a positive light, instead of something trying too hard to be seductive that it comes off smarmy and cheap.
Now, don’t get us wrong. We still enjoy the album and there are plenty of tracks that don’t raise red flags. “All We Ever Wanted” reminds us of an Icona Pop song and has the potential to be just as big as “I Don’t Care (I Love It)” was. “Like Lovers Do” tosses aside the sampled synth pop for unbeatable guitar solos, making the song overall feel like an old-school pop punk release, something you would have heard from some of the best acts today in their earlier days. The closing track, “This Is Me Breaking Up With You,” has everything you’d love and expect from a release from the likes of Courtney Love or Joan Jett (climaxing drums and gang vocals never disappoint).
Overall, the album is good if you don’t expect too much from it. Hey Violet have worked hard on branding themselves as ‘outcasts’ (which is played off of in the title of the album alone) and From The Outside continues to abandon them in the outskirts, not really finding a place they fit in. They’re no longer punk rock…and yet we’re sure many would argue they’re alternative and never dare label them with any of the pop references you can hear on the album.
From The Outside definitely, leaves us excited to see where Hey Violet goes from here. It may not be the best album you’ll hear this year – but with the variety in elements, tempos, genres, topics — it offers up a little something for everyone. Don’t give up on the band just yet. Many ‘first’ full-length albums get looked back on by artists and they think, ‘wow what a mess.’ Look at the evolution acts such as Paramore, Panic! At The Disco or The Beastie Boys, who all sound very little like they did with their debut releases. It’s all part of the process.
FAVORITE TRACKS: Like Lovers Do, Break My Heart, Hoodie.
MOST MEMORABLE: Brand New Moves, O.D.D.
1. Break My Heart
2. Brand New Moves
3. Guys My Age
5. My Consequence
7. All We Ever Wanted
10. Where Have You Been (All My Night)
11. Like Lovers Do
12. This Is Me Breaking Up With You