It’s very easy to be cynical about hot British pop punk prospects As It Is. Fronted by American-born YouTube personality Patty Walters and plying heart bearing lyrics over power chord rock straight from the speakers of the summer of 2002, they’re an easy target for the authenticity police of the internet music community.
Songs about internal insecurities built on major-key melodies ideal for mass singalong are far from novel (Oasis defined a generation’s taste by doing so), but where pop punk as a whole has for the most part moved in a more intellectual direction when it comes to lyrical content, As It Is are happy to wear both their hearts and their influences on their sleeves on their appropriately self-pityingly-titled debut full-length ‘Never Happy, Ever After’. This is clearly not a group trying to reinvent the wheel, they’re making intensely relatable music for people to bond through and release tension; and if that involves falling acutely between Jimmy Eat World’s underdog soul bearing and the nasal summertime bounce of New Found Glory, then so be it.
The only issue that should matter at this stage is whether or not As It Is have the songs to back up the head of steam they’ve built up: the answer is, mostly. They get off to a blinding start with a one-two punch of killer singles, “Speak Soft” setting the mood perfectly before “Cheap Shots and Setbacks” pushes as many likeability buttons as it can find. There’s a good handful of stone cold pop punk bangers sprinkled perfectly across the course of this album – “Dial Tones” most impresses with its killer chorus showcasing the effectively balanced vocals of Walters and guitarist Benjamin Bliss, “Concrete” with its perfectly arranged deployment of stock chord progressions. The band’s pinnacle remains the anthemic, constantly evolving “Can’t Save Myself”, good enough to drop into any compilations of the giants of the genre and still stand out. All of these songs feature the kind of lyrics you’d find scrawled in a bored teenager’s notebook, but there’s enough charm and knowing to them to sweep the listener up in the turbulent sentiments.
A counterpoint to the hyperbole is however inevitable, as is what it turns out to be – that an album so heavily rooted in emo-pop-punk’s core flavour wears that flavour out, even across its relatively brief runtime. It means that by the end even a perfectly decent song such as “Silence (Pretending’s So Comfortable)” feels less welcome than it should. Credit where it’s due there are excursions into more laid back material that try to break the mould, but while the steady build of “My Oceans Were Lakes” from stripped-back acoustic balladry to a beefed up refrain proves a beautiful centrepiece, “You, the Room & the Devil On Your Shoulder” is a disappointingly lethargic and muted parting track. It’s also worthwhile to note that while the simplistic musicianship is genre-appropriate, an occasional burst of flair would elevate the material, which uniformly relies on strong vocal hooks.
Pop punk is in as rude health as it has been since its millennial heyday, and though As It Is make no real moves to advance the genre from those golden years they provide an imitation passionately and proficiently crafted enough to dispel fears of overhype. ‘Never Happy, Ever After’ is a great pop punk album if nothing much else, and regardless of anything else deserves plaudits for sounding as California fresh as it does, recorded as it was by five young men from Brighton (well, mostly).