Album Review: Waterparks – FANDOM
Since 2011 the Houston, Texas band has been making waves with their eccentric sound and lyrics. From touring with Warped Tour to being managed by the Madden brothers Waterparks have been forging ahead and has become a household name in 2019.
Their highly anticipated fourth album was finally released last Friday, and fans are ecstatic. Fans became nervous when lead singer Awsten Knight announced that the band scrapped their original fourth album, “Friendly Reminder.” Though not everything is scrapped, Knight was able to repurpose some songs, lyrics, and sounds for the new album titled “FANDOM” which comes in at fifteen tracks and continues to share just who Waterparks is.
The album opens with “Cherry Red” which perfectly sets the tone for the album. It’s a heartbreaking track that has Knight singing about the pain and betrayal of a breakup through an upbeat sound. The track has a warping opening that instils an excitement that any listener, new or old, can fall into. Every time I hear the beginning of the track it makes me feel like I’m at the top of a rollercoaster that’s about to drop. Then Knight starts singing, and there’s that tickle in my stomach and chest as listeners are thrust into the album. The track ends with the last note merging into the opening sound of “Watch What Happens Next.”
“Cherry Red” melts perfectly into “Watch What Happens Next.” It is transitions like this that are one of the most satisfying things that is possible in music. The track kicks off with a riveting guitar riff with the perfect amount of distortion for the fed-up attitude the track emits. There is anger as Knight sings about the idea of him having to give up himself for whatever fans want. The track discusses the unfortunate feeling the band feels of having their lives dictated by fans. Knight sings about the truth of what he wants for himself even if fans are upset by it even at one point singing “I don’t deserve as much as all your pop faves.” The idea of being shamed by wanting and having money is loud, and Knight is sick of it. Which leads into track three “Dream Boy”.
“Dream Boy” continues the idea of fans creating their own narrative of what the band should do, and who the band is. Framed in a romantic light, Knight poses the question to fans if he is who they created him to be in their minds. There is a dreamlike effect throughout the track that makes listeners feel bubbly despite the rather dark lyrics. The track is very reminiscent of Dream Pop, and is similar to songs like “Young Adult Friction” by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and “Fascination Street” by The Cure. There is also a hint of self-conflict within Knight because of the pressure to be what fans think he is, and the risk of disappointment when he isn’t who they built in their heads. It’s quite scary to imagine the inner turmoil Knight could be faced with due to this idea of who he is. Is it bad if he is not what fans want him to be? Is his true self not good enough for fans? Does he feel forced to present the facade fans dream of? The track also has a computer-like sound which helps present the unrealistic, or fabricated ideas the songs presents.
“Easy To Hate” is the fourth track on the album, and tackles Knight’s difficulty with a previous relationship. This track is one of my favorites because it really expresses the hardships of loving someone who you know isn’t good for you. As much as one can acknowledge that they don’t deserve to be treated a certain way there’s this attachment you have that makes it difficult to leave. As fed-up as he is, Knight sings, “You’re selfish and a half/And the other half is me/Who’s apparently not mad enough/to get up and to leave.” This is another track that dials into the Dream Pop genre and plays an important role in the narrative of the album. The sounds used in the track help capture the frustration Knight felt during this specific time in his life. There is a painful yearning behind Knight’s voice that could be reaching for some sort of explanation from his partner or from himself. A change is wanted, and he isn’t sure how to get it.
“High Definition” is the fifth track on the album, and as Knight said is the one that makes him “the most emo” from the album. The best word to describe this track is outright ethereal. I’m not sure if it’s Knight’s use of background chatter from a public place in the background of the track, or the soothing harmonies. All I know is that it helps immerse listeners into Knight’s state of mind during this moment in his life. The simplicity of the track definitely makes it one of the best tracks off the album. I also got this idea that the multiple voices/harmonies help present an internal battle that Knight could be facing. The idea of love is difficult, and if you give that energy to the wrong person it could defeat you. There is a level of protection you need to have, and as Knight states it, “Alone is safer than with you.”
“Telephone” is the sixth track on the album and by far my favorite. It’s an upbeat song that Knight said to have written about a cute girl he saw at Target. It’s a fun track that is a complete 180 from the previous track by giving a more hopeful outlook when it comes to love. The backstory helps with the cuteness, and just fun vibe the track gives listeners. I think the best lyric from the track is, “BRRRR BLLL EH BLLH.” Trust me.
“Group Chat” is the seventh track on the album, and probably the heaviest of tracks off the album… Just kidding. The track runs for 0:15 and features drummer Otto Woods, guitarist Geoff Wigington, and vocalist Awsten Knight stating their names and declaring their friendship. I cry every time I hear it.
“Turbulent” is the eighth track on the album, and was the first single released by the band. The track opens with a single guitar and Knight name dropping Fall Out Boy members Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump. The line, “You had your own Pete Wentz and Patrick combined” had fans stoked when Knight teased part of the track back in April. The song is an anthem for anyone that has ever had a toxic ex and is the perfect song to scream sing along with. My favorite part about this track is Knight’s adjustments when asked to make a clean version of the song, and in true Awsten Knight fashion, he did exactly that. So if you have an ex you’d “unhug” if you could this angry track is perfect for you!
“Never Bloom Again” is the ninth track on the album, and one of the more heart-wrenching songs off of “FANDOM”. This is where the album takes a turn for me as it sends listeners to past breakups. The fear of running into them, seeing their face everywhere, and the fear of never really allowing yourself to open up to someone again. Knight was able to capture the pain through a slow, acoustic track that captures the deep internal struggle of being deceived and hurt by someone you love. Knight even hinting back to “High Definition” with the line “Alone was never easy after you” because even though “Alone is safer than with you” that doesn’t make it easy to feel alone.
“I Miss Having Sex But At Least I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore” is the tenth track on the album. Though it has an amusing title, and a bouncy sound its lyrics seem to represent another step forward during a break up. It’s the acknowledgement that though you miss little things about someone you’re better off without them, and on your way to a happier life. One of my favorite things about the track is the layering of the sound of Knight walking on seashells. He tweeted about his love of making his own sounds and was able to fit the seemingly simple sound into one of the best tracks on the album. It’s a fun song that shows the highs during the time where you’re trying to find yourself again after a tough time.
Which leads into track eleven “War Crimes” where Knight takes back his identity after losing himself in someone. One of the angrier songs on the album the tone of everything from the guitar to Knight’s vocals helps the feeling of rejection he sings about. He is taking his power back, and it’s refreshing. This track reminds of the anger stage in the five stages of grief. It’s the perfect song to amp listeners up.
“[REBOOT]” is the twelfth track on the album, and is exactly what the title is. It’s essentially Knight’s acceptance of the event that has transpired through the album, and his “rebooting” of himself. The tone shifts compared to the other songs on the album. When I first heard it, I got the feeling of giving up: Giving up on the fight and giving up on someone. You know those scenes in movies where there’s some sort of explosion and everyone near it gets shoved away in slow motion as they go flying across the room? That’s what this song feels like. It immerses you in this sort of “finale” like state where it feels like this could be the end, but you know it’s not time yet.
“Worst” is the thirteenth track on the album, and is one of the most requested and loved song by Parxies everywhere. The song was originally posted to Knight’s youtube channel but was rerecorded and released officially on this album. Through the song, you can feel Knight’s efforts to make things work with this person he loved but was ultimately hurt or deceived in some way. Knight tweeted about his mixing of the song by using an audio recording of the air while he was sitting outside in Houston, Texas (the band’s hometown). Knight mentioned how he wanted listeners to be fully immersed into the time the song was originally written which worked out beautifully.
“Zone Out” is the fourteenth track on the album, and is the original concept for the album’s third track “Dream Boy”. It is a slowed-down, almost lullaby-like version of the song, and is just hauntingly beautiful.
Finally, we have “I Felt Younger When We Met” which is the last track on the album. When I first listened to the album completely through this track felt like the final stage in grief. This acceptance that this relationship is over, and you did everything you could do to make it work. It’s a beautiful track musically. The distortion and clarity come through in lyrics and sounds used. There are elements from each track on the album that seem to play a part in this final song. It truly feels like an ending… that is until the ticking of the clock is heard and the song transitions back into “Cherry Red” signalling the cycle beginning once again.
It has never been more evident that some albums tell a narrative than this album. When listened to completely through the album has one of the most intriguing narratives, and through transitions presents a never-ending cycle that a lot of people go through. The idea of this is also shown through the album art, Knight tweeted, “I wanted there to be a visual representation of the loop which is why there are clock hands on the orange…” It provides a strange comfort of knowing that you’re never really alone.
While there is a slight newness to the sound of the album as compared to previous ones, one thing is still certain: it is still Waterparks. I highly encourage you to listen to the album in full all on its own without comparing it to the band’s other works. I think it’s important to think of albums like children, and the band as the parents. While they may have similar traits they all have their own lives and personalities. So while there might not be a “Blonde”-like song, or a song like “Stupid For You”, FANDOM has its own life, and boy I am so grateful it does.
You can check out the record below and don’t forget to share your thoughts!