Red, Green or Inbetween - WSTR
By Declan Sherry
WSTR have garnered a lot of hype and attention from the UK Pop-Punk scene lately so do the Scouse hopefuls have what it takes to make it big with their debut release Red, Green or Inbetween?
Album artwork by Toronto-based illustrator Jake Carruthers. Vocalist Sammy Clifford commented:
"The artwork is a voodoo doll which is meant to represent me, as sometimes I feel like someone is out to get me with all the bad luck I have".
Carruthers has experience working with similar artists, designing the EP sleeves for Six Time Champion's More Than Me and Blood Youth's Closure, as well as the single art for Long Story Short's "Tooth & Nail".
First tracks "Featherweight" and "Footprints" shows from the get go that it very well could. While I wouldn’t brand the tracks Pop-Punk anthems, they’re clearly strong examples of modern pop punk to open up the album. Both bouncy fast paced track from start to finish I can see both of these being fan favourites live. Whilst both tracks musically are marred with an air of being generic ("Footprints" in particular,) the lyrics absolutely foreshadow how the lads have nailed the essence of growing up and finding your way in life, not just for a teenage market, but for those who’ve escaped their teens just to find life’s not much brighter in your twenties.
For me the album remains somewhat like this, I feel I’ve heard the sound before, but then again, this is a Pop-Punk album, should I be surprised? At times, the band have been tagged with labels like Diet Neck Deep (don’t worry, the band had a giggle at that one,) and they’ve succumbed to the root of these comments, but also strayed from them and made their own mark with their debut in other parts.
"Gobshite" is a very short track running at less than 40 seconds long; with Neck Deep and Blink 182 both having done similarly-lengthed tracks in recent years, you get to see the comedic side at the heart of the genre in WSTR’s take on this whilst also getting a direct message about people turning up to shows just to fit in, which - in a good way - is reminiscent of Neck Deep lyrically with their song "All hype no heart" (From Rain in July (2012)).
"Lonely Smiles" is a cheery and bouncy number with a darker tone to the lyrics. Vocalist Sammy Clifford has already shown the excellence of WSTR’s relatable lyrics and he does it again here, discussing the struggles of depression. A infectiously catchy chorus solidifies yet another song that will go down amazingly live at upcoming shows. Coming more into their own as the album progresses, the lyrics stay more than relatable with "Nail the casket (thanks for nothing)"; a banger on the subject of broken relationships. Tongue in cheek lyrics follow the title of the song, my favourite being: “You’d rather talk it out, I’d rather disconnect my jaw”. The band’s instrumentals underneath showcase how well the band master pop-punk as well as some amazing vocal harmonies.
"Footprints" video by official band photographer Danny Barrett
"Lonely Smiles" video produced by award-winning media production Life Is Art Visuals. Additional footage provided by fans.
WSTR have done what their barely Welsh counterparts didn’t do with their last record (Life’s Not Out to Get you (2015)) and stuck with the punkier elements of pop-punk, yet they relent for "EastBound & Down"; a far mellower track that’s uplifting as fuck. That is until you pay attention to Clifford’s vocals and, once again, I can’t help relating to him so much. Don’t worry I’m done with comparisons of who WSTR could be like, they’ve done what many of their peers have done and made an authentic record, especially with tracks like this and the entire records' lyrics, you can tell this is the only record that WSTR could have used to showcase themselves with a debut full length.
"King’s Cup" is yet another track where the bands traditionally positive sounding instrumentals are juxtaposed to Clifford’s morbid yet sincere lyrics. Especially the instrumental interlude and harmonising vocals help solidify this song as one of the more anthemic of WSTR’s efforts on the album. The dark lyrics don’t stop there, and for once, the band mimic’s Clifford’s vocal style. A personal favourite of the album for me, the song eventually devolves into a stripped back acoustic piece as Clifford’s lyrics contemplate death before the song kicks back into the jolty pop-punk sound the band have moulded so well.
"Hightail" is the band once again showing off a driven bouncy faster piece from the start with the lyrics still flirting with the subject of death. It flows perfectly into "Penultimate", however the two seem to be the more forgettable of the album, where the poppier formula comes to the fore with both tracks seeming to succumb, and I can see why some people can pass certain elements of the band off as uninspired. But as per, Clifford’s lyrical substance is sublime and is their saving grace for these two tracks.
Closer "Punchline" then goes back to the acoustic format at first, before the full band comes in, in a true, unrelenting pop-rock style. For their sake, I hope the band releases this as a signal somewhere down the line as this song is superb; from the first lines of the first verse I can’t help but agree with what Clifford is singing. The atmospheric vocal harmonies and stripped back instrumentals summarise the emotions of the album and superbly close out WSTR’s first full length outing.
The band have done themselves proud with their first full length, and much of the credit I feel should be placed upon the lyrical content. It’s clear the band have influences in bands in the pop-punk community, yet, whilst at times the band succumb to a typecast formulaic sound, they have managed to leave their own mark on the genre - and with such superb lyrical content. While a progression in sound may be needed for their sophomore album, they have clearly shown they are contenders for greatness in the modern scene after this full length. And - if you’ve not heard it yet - SKRWD (2015) is their only EP to date and has some amazing hooks and choruses. Do check them out.