Real Friends – ‘There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late’

By Sean Reid

Having embedded new vocalist Cody Muraro on 2021’s ‘Torn In Two’, Real Friends has returned with another set of emotionally-charged pop-punk/pop-rock scorchers. Citing bands such as The Starting Line, Taking Back Sunday, and Jimmy Eat World as influences behind the writing of ‘There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late’, the Illinois group firmly weave those influences into their brand of pop-punk.

For starters, ‘Tell Me You’re Sorry’ bursts instantly with Brian Blake’s dense drum work before Muraro delivers a catchy and energetic hook in the chorus that’s certain to stick with you for days. Furthermore, when you add some power-driven and crunchy guitar work and Kyle Fasel’s defined bass line, you’re left with a strong, infectious opener.

‘The Damage Is Done’ and ‘Always Lose’ keep up the momentum and maintain the standard Real Friends have set themselves in recent years. Sure, they’re catchy, emotional, and executed with plenty of purpose, yet they’re no different to what we’ve heard before. Nevertheless, it is admirable for Real Friends to carve out a familiar style, and for the most part, favourable. The latter, ‘The Damage Is Done’, sees Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba provide songwriting assistance yet doesn’t differ stylistically.

Likewise, ‘Six Feet’ rolls in, perfectly taking its place in Real Friends’ arsenal of boisterous pop-punk cuts. Soaring with an abundance of energy, and nostalgic lyrics of “Mixtape on repeat”, the recent single sees Muraro looking for appreciation. It’s a relatable notion that’s wrapped up in a ball of positivity.

On ‘I Don’t Have To Do That Anymore’, guitars ring out as an acoustic guitar breezily enters, ultimately allowing the quintet to reign things in for the expected balladic number. It highlights Real Friends’ ability to maturely write about toxic relationships, Muraro’s hushed vocals glowing with sincerity, yet it’s a forgettable track that somewhat pauses any momentum the EP had going. Admittedly, some will welcome the change in pace.

Although Real Friends leans on expected tropes a bit too much, there’s something quite comforting to what they do. Their blend of emotionally introspective lyricism and bold and radiant brand of hook-filled pop-punk is certainly reassuring. Take main EP closer ‘I’m Not Ready’ for example. Here Muraro sings about mental health troubles – being alone and personal uncertainty – but it’s complemented by a structure that unites the band and the listener. That’s the secret ingredient to what Real Friends do; the ability to connect with their fans through relatable songs that don’t hold back on emotion.

While acoustic versions of ‘Tell Me You’re Sorry’ and ‘Always Lose’ come off as tacked on, they do highlight Cody Muraro’s impressive vocal range. Whereas a plucky, ominous layer is added to the stripped-back version of ‘Always Lose’.

Overall, ‘There’s Nothing Worse Than Too Late’ offers enough substance to keep fans interested from start to finish. The handful of hooks is complemented by uncomplicated instrumentation that is driven with intent and familiarity. Yet, it is that same familiarity that could prove to be a long-term hindrance. Sure, Cody Muraro has firmly established himself as the band’s vocalist, yet musically Real Friends haven’t evolved beyond a tried and tested formula.

SÊAN REID

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