If the 2103 debut album from party-hard punks FIDLAR sounded like the height of a rager, the band’s follow-up makes the uneasy transition to the day after.
Still bratty, juvenile and loaded with energy, the music on Too belies the lyrical focus, with songs about trying to grow up like nothing’s changed when clearly the drugs and booze have more than taken their toll.
Aging—gracefully or not—is a serious subject and one that FIDLAR comes to with no limit of authority. But as often as not, the band misses the opportunity to match the intensity of the experience with the intensity of the music. When the real consequences and real questions come into focus, Too brings a thought-provoking honesty that propels the music. When singer/guitarist Zac Carper dodges his own subject matter, the songs shrink like forgettable, pissed-away nights.
That tension is all over the album, right from the opening “40oz. On Repeat,” which contains competing lines like “I don’t care at all, I’ll drink some alcohol / It’ll make me who I really wanna be” and “I thought that if I cleaned up my act / It’d help me understand exactly who I am.” It’s a song that effectively leverages the alienation and anxiety inherent in Carper’s struggles while serving as a strong introduction to the album.
The following tracks are some of Too’s strongest: the defiant, swaggering, riff-laden “Punks” and the anthemic “West Coast,” which is FIDLAR’s best song to date, an endlessly singable nugget that both celebrates freedom and chronicles a series of bad mistakes.
From “West Coast,” the album moves along unevenly, with first-draft songs sitting alongside top-shelf ones.
FIDLAR know the record’s subject matter has been a part of rock ‘n’ roll since long before they were born, but they seem content to put the same stamp others have on the situation: “Too late to die young and too young to burn out / Or I could fade away and just say that I’m happy,” Carper sings on “Leave Me Alone.”
The flaws on Too are most evident on “Sober,” when an otherwise direct lyric—“I figured out when I got older that life just sucks when you get sober / I figured out when I got sober that life just sucks when you get older”—is buried beneath two long spoken-word monologues that amount to nothing more than whining.
“Overdose” is stripped-down and spooky, leaning more toward Tom Waits than skate punk, but it’s such unfamiliar territory for the band that the impact is somewhat muted. When the cacophony hits during the song’s last 30 seconds, it seems tacked on rather than a climax.
The mixed results from what could be the album’s two most powerful songs come from the band playing deliberately against its strengths. But maturity in subject matter doesn’t necessarily need a fresh musical slate, which the band has already proved on “West Coast” and “Bad Medicine,” which, not coincidentally, are Too’s strongest tracks.
Still, the risks that FIDLAR takes on Too are laudable and point to more staying power than a retread of the band’s debut would indicate. Like the crossroads at the core of Carper’s lyrics on Too, the band faces a question of how to move forward, how to both evolve and stay true to itself.