Trophy Eyes – ‘Suicide and Sunshine’

By Sean Reid

It’s been five years since Aussie outfit Trophy Eyes’ last full-length outing. 2018’s ‘The American Dream’ honed in a bigger-is-better sound, packed with big choruses yet was anchored by an emotional weight. And now we have ‘Suicide and Sunshine’, a record that was intended to be their final album yet by the conclusion of its creation, the quartet have found a new energy.

In frontman John Floreani, Trophy Eyes have always had an introspective touch to their songwriting, and ‘Suicide and Sunshine’ is no different. This time around, Floreani, along with guitarist Josh Campiao, drummer Blake Caruso, and bassist Jeremy Winchester, take a step back and consider the full spectrum of life; both the highs and lows. 

Early on, ‘Life in Slow Motion’ sets the lyrical tone as Floreani explores the notion that “everything is temporary”. It’s backed up by striking chords and atmospheric synths that elevate alongside Floreani’s vocals, creating a satisfying, bold chorus, full of emotion. 

Whether it’s questioning his worth late at night on ‘My Inheritance’ or to his distant relationship with his mum on ‘Runaway, Come Home’, trying to get through to a drug-addicted friend on ‘Blue Eyed Boy’, or simply the need for attention while dealing with addiction himself on ‘Burden’, Floreani isn’t afraid to put it all out there. 

Genre-wise, Trophy Eyes have firmly shaken off the pop-punk tag they’ve been lumped with since their emergence with 2014’s ‘Mend, Move On’. ‘Sunshine and Suicide’ carries elements of intense punk, summery pop, and raw acoustics (see ‘Sweet Soft Sound’), while never diminishing the vulnerability of Floreani. 

Take ‘People Like You’ for example – it barges in with fierce percussion and Floreani’s raw, unhinged screaming, directing his anger at the wealthy kids he went to school with in his rural hometown of Mudgee, New South Wales. While the aforementioned ‘Blue Eyed Boy’ musically revolves around a swift, playful synth melody, it’s complemented by driving guitars, and Floreani’s angst-filled voice in the verse, only to segue into one of the album’s catchiest choruses; “I’m asking you as your best friend/ I can fix this thing you did/ ‘Cause I can’t see blue-eyed boy dead”. Likewise, ‘What Hurts the Most’ steadily builds with its upbeat tempo, and catchy melody, allowing Blake Caruso’s drum work to battle it out with Floreani in the bridge.

Trophy Eyes’ ability to constantly deliver emotionally-stirring choruses is a credit to them. Even on songs such as ‘OMW’, which leans on dense guitars and a hint of hardcore, they still tend to embrace radiant hooks whereas ‘Kill’ stiffly counters this with its plodding pace and drifting guitars, emphasising the dark side of ‘Suicide and Sunshine’, at least musically. Later on, ‘Stay Here’, begins ominously, creating a haunting atmosphere as Floreani’s words are full of guilt, as he pleads to a friend; “Save your breath ‘Cause I don’t believe it I tried my best”. It’s on par with one of the album’s most compelling moments.

However, that accolade goes to the album’s centrepiece – ‘Sean’. A frank, and morbidly honest ode to a friend who committed suicide on a sunny day (hence the album’s title), it’s a gut-wrenching listen as Floreani pours out his heart to his late friend. 

With its lyrical weight and musical diversity, there is a lot to take in on ‘Sunshine and Suicide’. While its quality and consistency don’t quite match 2016’s ‘Chemical Miracle’, there is still plenty here to enjoy. Whether that’s the infectious synth hook of ‘Blue Eyed Boy’, the slickness of ‘Runaway Come Home’ or ‘Stay Home’ or the lyrical sentimentality that threads it together, at its core is what you want from a Trophy Eyes record. They continue to stand out from the scene of bands they emerged with almost 10 years ago, and with a renewed energy and purpose, it’s clear Trophy Eyes are far from done. 

SÊAN REID

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