Waterparks – ‘Fandom’

By Liam Knowles

Everyone’s favourite capital letter enthusiasts Waterparks are back with a slab of electronic emo pop, because apparently no-one told them that genre peaked when 3OH!3 convinced Katy Perry to run through a fountain in 2008. ‘Fandom’ is the band’s third album and sees them attempt to blend a myriad of influences including pop-punk, emo, drum and bass, synth pop and acoustic rock into a cohesive record. The question is, have they pulled it off?

The short answer is no. Whilst ‘Fandom’ will undoubtedly go over well with the band’s legion of loyal fans (or Stans, as the kids say), take a step back from it and you’ll see it’s a bit of a mess. The album opens with ‘Cherry Red’, which admittedly is a decent enough chunk of 80s-inspired pop-rock, or it would be if it didn’t end suddenly after less than 90 seconds with no build-up or climax or… anything, really. After that, it just gets worse. ‘Watch What Happens Next’ channels the band’s hip-hop influences, but it’s much more Macklemore than Mos Def and the lyrical content about a lack of real earning potential in alternative music just comes off as entitled. This is one of the many moments on ‘Fandom’ that is probably supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but because there’s a lack of earnestness across the whole record, it’s difficult to pull out the bits that are meant to be a joke.

Pretty much everything that happens on ‘Fandom’ feels like a watered-down version of something else. ‘Telephone’ sounds like a cross between Panic! At The Disco and Death Cab For Cutie, but lacks the vaudevillian charm of the former and the emotional vulnerability of the latter. ‘High Definition’ sounds like something Owl City, who themselves were just a poor man’s The Postal Service, would have left on the cutting room floor. Even the “comedy” skit, ‘Group Chat’, sounds like a Lonely Island song that’s cut off before the punchline. You can see what Waterparks have tried to do with each track, but they consistently miss the mark, leaving nothing but songs devoid of any personality or anything that could be mistaken for soul.

The one track that does stand out as a highlight is ‘Never Bloom Again’, which ironically is the least ambitious song on the album. This stripped-back acoustic number, whilst a little on the cheesy side, showcases some solid songwriting ability and uses some interesting lyrical imagery. It’s just such a shame that it’s followed by ‘I Miss Having Sex’ which is, in a word, nonsense.

It’s unfortunate that this album is so lacking because the production job that’s been done on it is impeccable. The glistening electronic elements sound rich and full without ever overpowering the ‘rock’ side of things, apart from on the lyrically terrible but musically fantastic ‘Turbulent’ where they’re dialled up to 11, providing some real power to this urgent, pulsing powerhouse of a song. Every little nuance has clearly been carefully considered in the studio and you have to applaud the end result, even if the songs themselves aren’t up to much.

This album will certainly do well and will definitely push Waterparks comfortably up to the next tier of their career, but its limited lyrical range (seriously, how many times do you need to mention texting / mobile phones in general) and re-hashed, derivative musical ideas will likely leave anyone already out of their teens quite cold. In 2019, when mainstream pop music is actually putting out some quite interesting artists, these bands that dance the line between pop and rock end up offering nothing of value to either side, and that’s certainly the case here. Don’t waste your time with ‘Fandom’, go to an actual waterpark instead. You’ll have a much better time and the risk of drowning is more exciting than anything that happens on this record.

LIAM KNOWLES

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