Album Review: Lights over Bridgeport – ‘Better This Way’

Posted: by The Editor

If you find yourself combing your way through any of Lights Over Bridgeport’s social media, you’re bound to land on the conclusion that the music they create is not only apart of their job, but it runs through their very veins. These Chicago punks perform with conviction- believing each and every word they preach. With their debut full-length, Better This Way, dropping, this message only translates further into their work. 

Since the release of their 2017 EP Good Grief, the group have dabbled in their sound allowing their gritty 90’s influences to really take the driver’s seat. Recording alongside seasoned veteran Nick Diener from The Swellers, you can almost taste the melting pot of The Mezingers and Face to Face sprinkled with a little Jimmy Eat World in their mold. And just like the 90’s punk rock scene, Lights Over Bridgeport honed in on their lyrical prowess to produce a record that is much more than shallow verses laid atop melodies that is found splayed across a variety of faux-punk bands that talk big but never stand long enough for it to mean anything. 

Instead, going into Better This Way the band knew they wanted to soak the sponge of the record in as much positivity as possible. In fact, the recent drop does everything in its power to amplify the light that is trekking to those better days ahead. When describing the record, Singer Johnny Hamlin explains that it is, “About making the decision to fight for something better for yourself.” As one spoons into the project, that theme only resonates stronger. 

For example, one of their lead singles, “Morning’s in Chicago,” is a metaphor for that exact statement. It trails the concept of waking up one morning and deciding, for yourself, that today is going to be better. It detonates like a bomb as the opener to the album as this theme is led by a speeding soundscape while chasing Kevin Jamroz’ live-wire percussion. With the chorus peaking through Hamlin’s outstretched vocals, it is a refreshing restart on life that only perseveres as this sentiment scorches through Better This Way.

One of the personal standouts, “Transparency,” is a slow-burn that seems to dig into the difficulties that come with getting better- facing the pit of sadness and everything that has culminated from that. On this track, it is a melancholy account of love lost as one retraces the ghost of a past relationship. Hitting the groove of the classic pop-punk dynamic, the gloom of Hamlin’s voice builds to an effervescent high until the listener falls into his shoes, looking through his lens, burning the candle at both ends searching for that lone spirit. Clamoring lyrics out like, “You’ll never be who I want you to be, because you’ll never be who you are,” and “My spirit is bitter and dead on the rack from all the seeds that we’ve sown,” there’s no doubt that this track encapsulates the damaged goods that can be in tow even when you’re demanding yourself to get better. 

All throughout Better This Way, Lights Over Bridgeport documents the journey of coming out on top of the ashes of isolation and depression. The ability to never sugar-coat the batter and bruising that goes alongside deciding to get better is what makes this record and the band’s message more authentic and personable. There are not many outlets that show the unattractive side of recovery, and to see a band like Lights Over Bridgeport tackle that head-on while also providing an overarching light to their album should turn anyone’s ears onto these Chicago rockers. 

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great/ Phenomenal


Hope Ankney | @hope_ankleknee

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