Australian pop punk band Stand Atlantic returns with the follow up to their 2018 debut album Skinny Dipping. I’ve never been very fond of pop punk as a genre, but something about Stand Atlantic really worked for me. The main draw is lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Bonnie Fraser’s sticky melodies and charismatic voice. While a good deal of the songs on their debut did end up succumbing to generic pop punk tendencies, the band remained likeable and memorable. They’re an easy band to root for, and their newest project Pink Elephant shows the pop punk community that they are a force to be reckoned with.
The band relishes in the pop side of pop punk on Pink Elephant. Bright synths color the instrumentals and make the songs as vibrant as the cover art. While the album isn’t as riff-centered as Skinny Dipping, the presence of the guitars is not lost. Tracks like “Jurassic Park”, “Soap”, “Eviligo”, and “Hate Me (Sometimes)” give lead guitarist David Potter plenty of room to work. Even when the synths take center stage, none of the rock energy is lost. The hectic synthline that kicks off “Shh!” is one of the most hard-hitting moments on the album. The poppier tendencies enhance the instrumentals, but unfortunately the vocals end up suffering a bit. Bonnie’s vocals are outstanding, the choruses of “Shh!” and “Jurassic Park” are particularly powerful, but they’re at times over processed to a distracting extent. It’s not too noticeable on the busier tracks, but it’s hard to ignore on the vulnerable ballad “Drink To Down.” The performance is very emotional, but the impact is lessened a bit when the vocals sound so unnaturally squeaky-clean. There are some off-putting uses of vocal manipulation as well, “DWYW” being the worst offender. It’s not awful, in fact it actually works pretty well on “Hate Me (Sometimes),” but “Wavelength” and certainly “DWYW” would be better off without it.
Lyrically, Pink Elephant can be a bit of a mystery. At first glance, the lyrics for “Jurassic Park” are rather perplexing. Lines about “dressing skeletons” and “lost dinosaurs” and “dancing with ghosts in your garden” pop up in the hook, and it’s a bit difficult to figure out what to make of it all. After watching an interview where Bonnie provided some insight, her approach to songwriting started to make a bit more sense. She said the song was about those close to people who struggle with a mental illness, and with that in mind, it’s fun to try and decipher all of her metaphors. Even if one were able to decipher the song without Bonnie’s help, they’d immediately be stumped by the following track “Eviligo”. On the hook she sings, “I can sting like eviligo. What’s your blood type by the kilo?” It’s a tongue-in-cheek song with ridiculous over-the-top stalker-type lyrics, and it’s a lot of fun. The world “eviligo” is the real head scratcher though. If you Google the word, the only results are this song. After checking out what she had to say on social media, Bonnie seems to be deliberately avoiding giving an explanation by instead offering cheekily vague responses to fans, so either she doesn’t even know, or she doesn’t want anybody to know. Either way, it’s a very enjoyable song.
The initial draw to the group is still their greatest strength, and that’s their sticky melodies. “Blurry” is quite possibly the catchiest song they’ve made. It has the most addicting hook on the album and it’s guaranteed to live in your head for at least a week. Although “Blurry” is arguably the strongest, it seems every track is battling for the title of best chorus. Whenever it seems the best one has presented itself, another contender bursts through. The melodies on “Soap” effortlessly trap the listener in a sweet bubble of bliss while the gritty vocals on the massive hook on “Shh!” knocks them back like a blast of dynamite. The instrumentals on the project, while overproduced, are solid, but they wouldn’t be much to write home about if it weren’t for the irresistible vocal melodies soaring over them. The only track that challenges this is “Silk and Satin,” where the spacey instrumental actually detracts from the vocals. Bonnie’s melodies and vocals are great as always, but the sleepy guitar line paired with the drum machine and percussive bubble-popping sounds leaves a lot to be desired.
While Stand Atlantic don’t do anything revolutionary on Pink Elephant, they manage to escape the pop punk pitfalls that they fell into on their debut. It’s a short but sweet listen of fun tunes that are guaranteed to get stuck in your head. Even if pop punk isn’t a genre that you have any interest in, Pink Elephant is worth a listen.
If you like: Waterparks, State Champs, The Gospel Youth
Favorites: “Blurry”, “Jurassic Park”, “Shh!”, “Eviligo”, “Soap”