There was a time when the music world didn’t think they’d see any more of Basement- the Ipswich-based punk group went on hiatus in 2012, just before the release of their second album. During their time away, they decided to work on their careers outside of music- but as happens with many bands, the music drew them back in, and they released their third album in 2016. Luckily we didn’t have to wait as long until their fourth full LP. A label change to Fueled By Ramen suggests a switch to a softer, poppier sound, but really, I’m not sure what to expect- let’s see how this record sounds.
It turns out, despite the label change and any other influences, this is the Basement that we all know and love. This is straight-up punk/alternative rock, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else, simply relying on the strength of the music itself rather than any frills, fancy bits, or outside instrumentation. Because of this approach, it falls on the songwriting ability of the band to carry these tracks- and boy do they! The band have never been shy about taking on serious topics but on these songs they go a little deeper- discussing the feeling of sadness in such stark terms that it’s hard not to relate to some of them. And it’s all wrapped up in one of the catchiest packages you’ll find this year.
But sadness isn’t the only topic they tackle on the album- and it’s far from the darkest. ‘Ultraviolet’ may have a pretty name- but it’s take on the 2017 London terror attacks is far from it, painting a pretty grim picture of a dark moment in British history. ‘Stigmata’ on the other hand is a moody track taking on the moments when you feel low, but aren’t particularly sure why. My highlight of the album, however, is the acoustic interlude ‘Changing Lanes’. Usually I’m not a fan of acoustic tracks on punk albums, but Basement really make this work, injecting enough emotional energy into the track to make it fit with the rest of the album.
This album isn’t an easy listen- there’s no doubt about it. The emotional intensity will be offputting for some- but for those that are in the right mindset, this album will be as addictive as anything. Basement’s way of weaving difficult topics into catchy melodies is a talent rarely found in the music industry, but the talent of the band really shines through here. You have to be in the right mindset to listen to it, but when you are- there isn’t anything better.
Best songs: Be Here Now, Ultraviolet, Changing Lanes