Track Attack: The Front Bottoms Still Got It On ‘Tie Dye Dragon’

Posted: by The Editor

tfb ann

Debating the legitimacy of The Front Bottoms will only continue to become a more divisive and impassioned discussion as their O.G. fans age, and as the band’s popularity grows. Similar to the dichotomous relationship between Weezer and their devotees, which I briefly wrote about earlier this week, there’s an inherent disgruntlement among fans of a group who cut their teeth in rawness and are now radio-rock-tier polished. And like Weezer, there’s a certain amount of discontentment that’s perfectly warranted here. TFB’s early records had a homespun allure to them that’s been completely traded in for glitzy synths and arena-ready production, and songwriter Brian Sella has forgone his gut-spilling lyrical style for briefer, more reserved (and much less dramatic) turns of phrase. For some, that change is unwelcome, which is understandable.

However, there’s also no denying that melody—truly inescapable, positively ceaseless, sticky-as-fuck melody—has been a core tenant of TFB’s music since their humble beginnings. Every Front Bottoms song aims to be catchier than the last, and a huge part of their appeal has always been that every song is a giant earworm. Like, every single song. They have literally yet to write a song that’s not catchy, and if you’ve given their recent releases (2015’s Back On Top and 2017’s Going Grey) a fair shot, they’re currently writing their catchiest, most fun tracks yet.

Today, the band released the first song from Ann, the long-awaited companion EP to 2014’s Rose. The song, accompanied by a must-watch music video, is called “Tie Dye Dragon” and it’s one of the best TFB songs in recent memory. In familiar form, it follows a hook that’s based around a simple set of acoustic guitar chords and Sella’s nasally extension of nearly every rhyme. Eventually, momentous “woah-oh” harmonies join in, as well as a syrupy bassline, snappy drum hits and tasteful violin strokes. It’s got all the grandeur of their recent output, but it never becomes saccharine—as much of Going Grey unfortunately did.

In some ways, it actually sounds like a rejection of their recent glossiness. Sella sings about getting slapped at a family party while he was on LSD, offering select details but not enough specifics to paint the whole picture. That lyrical style of pulling your listener in only to further disorient them has been a technique of his for years, and although the vividness of his narratives have declined, he’s still able to convey indescribable sentiments with just a few words.

When I spoke with Sella last fall about what the Front Bottoms have become over the years, he talked about exploring new avenues with his art. “I wanna be an artist that has a huge fucking catalog of music and merchandise and art and be able to always make new, creative, random-ass shit,” he said, joyously. TFB’s art has changed a lot in recent years, but watching an uncomfortably off-kilter closeup of Sella’s face get stroked in the high-key creepy video for “‘Tie Dye Dragon,” I feel just as uneasy and voyeuristic as I used to when listening to his unadulterated ramblings.

The Front Bottoms are still making their audience feel as queasy as they are inclined to belt along, just in different ways.

Eli Enis | @eli_enis

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