Everything about Crossroads, the debut album from Welsh rockers My Favourite Runner Up is big; massive choruses and hooks matching an equally hefty energy, but most of all it provides big satisfaction with its superbly crafted songs. The band’s previous EP Thoughts, Feelings, Actions impressed and thrilled upon its appearance in 2012 but it was just a taster of things to come as shown by this resourceful stomp. The new album takes all the striking elements found on its predecessor and twists them into even catchier irrepressible temptations but equally it shows a greater maturity in the songwriting of the band. It is fair to say there is a sense of familiarity to the blend of pop punk and rock which breeds their songs but the quintet delivers it with such resourcefulness and adventure that they leave most others in the shade.
My Favourite Runner Up began in 2006 and taking influences from the likes of New Found Glory, Jimmy Eat World, and Mayday Parade into their emerging sound were soon drawing attention and positive responses. They built a potent fanbase and reputation through their live performances, shows with the likes of Madina Lake, Mallory Knox, Kids In Glass Houses, Cerys Matthews, The Blitz Kids, Kids Can’t Fly, Bury Tomorrow, The Hype Theory, I Spy Strangers, and many more marking the past years. The band recorded their debut EP in 2010 with producer Romesh Dodangoda who has recorded all subsequent releases with the band. It and the following Thoughts, Feelings, Actions brought eager acclaim upon their presences, the second especially stirring up impressive critical responses and airplay. Now building on a busy 2013 for the band of touring and playing shows, My Favourite Runner Up’s first full-length is poised to push the band into an intense spotlight, an easy assumption such its rousing qualities.
Crossroads flies from the blocks with the excellent opener Light A Fire, guitar strokes and pulsating drum beats from Thomas Carr waking up the ears before the band uncages a contagion of sharp hooks and storming riffs with the lead vocals of Christian Evans laying down another strong lure within the web of enterprise provided by the guitars of Andrew Towell and Tom Hawkes. The song strides confidently throughout, at times showing restraint in its overall lively charge but constantly leaning persuasively on the senses with exciting dynamics and melodic potency. It is a tremendous start to the release immediately backed up by the new video single from the album, Poison. The second song swings into view with a swagger to the guitar and smile to the voice of Evans. Like a middle weight boxer dancing on its feet, the track bounces and leaps around the imagination with virulent infectiousness, the flames of guitars shadowed by again thumping rhythms and the dark tones of bass of Lee Walker.
Both Never Again and Love Comes First march with large strides into the emotions, the first an emotively carved blaze of melodies and harmonies, the songs continuing to be blessed with great group combinations vocally. The song is more of a reflective stroll musically than its predecessors but still embraces excitable energy and keenness building to a huge anthemic chorus, a constant trait the band leaves most other similar bands sounding quite pale against. The second of the two raises the pace again, its ridiculously addictive chorus with equally epidemic vocal coaxing from Evans irresistible. Guitars and beats romp with skill and mischief in the ears but also with an invention and imagination which reveals the depths of the band’s thoughtful songwriting. It is one of the major pinnacles on the album standing boldly aside the opener and the following No More Fight within a wholly elevated range of triumphs. The next song has a stronger punk intensity to its body but does not lack any of the melodic endeavours and infectiousness of others whilst providing a scintillating groove to further ignite the imagination.
Through the sublimely magnetic title track, a song with another chorus impossible to resist contributing to, the passion drenched Your Own Worst Enemy, and the compelling Storytelling the album continues to burn and entice brightly, the trio of songs individual in sound and character but united in uncaging hooks and melodies which simply seduce the strongest hunger in an already enraptured appetite for the album’s might. It is easy to wax lyrical about Crossroads when songs like this leave no ardour kissed reaction and pleasure unused.
With an album of such high standards maybe slips in appeal if not quality are inevitable and with Scars and Better Without You, the band does miss the high mark set previously. To be honest there is little to dismiss the pair over, their craft and presentation undeniably impressive but both lack the same spark and adventure of their companions, thus failing to linger in thoughts and emotions. Home though ensures the album ends powerfully, almost combative rhythms and melody bred flames framing and flaring around the ever strong vocals whilst Walker saves his best bassline for this closing treat. It concludes a towering triumph of an album which suggests My Favourite Runner Up has the potential to be the next big thing UK rock proposition. Crossroads is one of the most enjoyable and impressive pop punk/power pop albums heard in quite a long time, if not the best.
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