Album Review: Real Friends – ‘There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late’
Posted: by The Editor
We’ve come full circle on pop-punk, and now it’s cool again. So this is the perfect time for the reintroduction of Real Friends. When Dan Lambton left the band years ago, it seemed like the end for the defend pop-punk era holdover group. But they reestablished themselves with the half acoustic slow jam, half pop-punk sugar rush Torn in Two with new vocalist Cody Murano (ex-Youth Fountain) as if to say we’re still here. Now, with There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late the Chicago foursome is ready to mount their comeback. Unfortunately, where this could be a great way to showcase the band’s growth and a new way to hook in old fans and new alike, Real Friends frequently rely on the same tired shtick they and their peers peddled a decade ago. In other words, almost everything about them is somebody else.
It didn’t have to be this way. 2018’s Composure leaned more heavily into pop-rock elements than the Drive-Thru cosplay of previous releases. That break from formula suggested a genuinely interesting potential path for the band, and indeed songs like the previously released “Always Lose” that err on that side of the band’s sound are the most impressive on the record. More in the mold of State Champs or All Time Low than Neck Deep or Knuckle Puck, it reaffirms what Composure hinted at: regardless of their vocalist, dropping those punk-adjacent affectations reveals Real Friends to be an entirely competent pop rock band.
When the band stays in that mode is when There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late succeeds. Opener “Tell Me You’re Sorry” is a case in point, likely the strongest cut here, and one of the band’s very best. The song’s chiming chorus calls to mind Mayday Parade at their catchiest. It’s an auspicious opener; unfortunately, aside from “Always Lose,” and a few scattered moments throughout There’s Nothing Worse Than Love, the band falls back into their old habits. A song like “Strangers” tries to split the difference between the band’s two sides, bouncy, bright hooks giving way to shouted verses fit for a Warped Tour comp. Still, with its jangly and understated chorus, it’s one of the brighter moments.
“The Damage Is Done” and the previously released “Six Feet” wouldn’t feel out of place on any of the band’s pre-2018 releases, This Is Honesty to The Home Inside My Head. Those albums, flawed though they may be, contain a youthful energy that propelled their best songs–cuts like “Colder Quicker” or “Summer”–that the more traditional pop-punk songs here lack. “I’m Not Ready” closes out the slate of originals (the album ends with acoustic takes on a couple of the singles) on an underwhelming note. It’s the song that relies most heavily on the tired pop-punk the band made their name on, and it’s got the last to dig into. The most exciting music in any genre is the kind that takes clear influences and transcends them to create something new—it’s why I spend so much time writing about emo and grunge on this very website in 2023. Real Friends, on the other hand, exist in the shadow of their influences—and often themselves. There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late comes too late to make a mark, but it does provide a glimpse of a way forward.
Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal
There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late is out now on Pure Noise.
Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison
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