In recent years, the pop punk genre has broadened to be more inclusive of bands with other genres in their sound, such as grunge or math-rock. One of these bands is Balance and Composure, which started as a band with strong pop punk and grunge elements, lead by the throaty vocals of Jon Simmons and a nascent ear of melody even in their loudest moments.
Their first album, Separation, delivered an album as much indebted to bands like Nirvana and later Brand New as the current crop of pop punk bands, with several songs, such as Quake and I Tore you Apart in My Head, fast becoming fan favourites. They followed this up with the more polished Things We Think We’re Missing, which saw them going towards more an alternative rock sound, while still keeping the same vibe of their earlier material. This refinement in sound lead them to tour with bands such as Coheed and Cambria and a chart position of 51 on the Billboard 200.
The question is where they would go from there, would B&C continue to refine their grungy/alternative sound as expected, or would they attempt to branch out? As may be apparent to pop punk fans, many bands are incorporating different elements into their sound as they progress, such as Turnover and Title Fight, with their forays into shoegaze territory or Basement firmly planting their feet into an alternative rock sound.
Ultimately, for Balance and Composure, the answer is somewhere in the middle, delivering an album that brings in disparate influences while sounding somewhat familiar.
Opening with the first track, Midnight Zone, these different elements are immediately apparent, with subdued instrumentation and falsetto vocals during the verses making it obvious that listeners would be in for a ride. While some of the tracks are similar to their earlier material, albeit a lot more subdued, Balance and Composure bring in a large amount of electronics into songs such as For a Walk and Postcard, which is reminiscent of Radiohead, and some post-punk influence rears its head on the songs Call it Losing Touch and Is It So Much to Adore, sounding more like New Order than pop punk.
The tracks that sound the closest to their earlier material (such as Spinning and Afterparty) will be capable of throwing listeners a curve ball as they contain far brighter instrumentation and melodies with Simmons dropping his louder vocals for a far smoother style of singing. However while his style of singing has changed, Simmons still delivers the depressing lyrics one would expect of him (Wading in your riverbed, dying in my selfishness. Sinking away. Bending and breaking you’re sinking away).
While it may seem that Balance and Composure have followed in the paths of other pop punk bands in trying to find different, but well-worn, paths to further their sound, they have managed to side step these issues by bringing in elements completely out of left field. While this album may rankle some fans who enjoy their louder, more raucous earlier material, the strength in the songwriting combined with the sense that B&C knew exactly what they were capable of, means that even the most cynical fan should be able to enjoy this album, even if it may take a few listen, as it did for me.