Indie/Indie Rock Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Hidden Gems: Soul Punk – Patrick Stump

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of Patrick Stump’s first solo album ‘Soul Punk’, released during Fall Out Boy’s hiatus, this record is a favourite of mine and at the time, really showed off Stump’s talent in a way that no one had ever seen before. People knew he was a phenomenal singer, but this album showed off his skills in so many ways. Stump made a soulful, RnB, pop album, and played every instrument, wrote every song and produced every track. After being known as the singer from Fall Out Boy, here we got to see just how much talent was waiting to burst out of just one man. But despite generally positive reviews, the album didn’t do as well as it should have, and to this day is hardly known about unless you’re a pretty die hard Stump or Fall Out Boy fan. Stump commented on the record saying “When it comes to pop music, there’s this perception that all you have to do is press a button on your iPad, but I wanted to make it with love and put a lot into it. A lot of people asked, ‘Where did you get the drum sounds?’ I played them. ‘What synth plug-in was that?’ I played all the synths. ‘How’d you get that bass tone?’ It’s a bass. I really wanted to put in the effort, even if people might not notice.” to the extent of the album art as well, making a point of using real materials and not just photoshopping shapes onto the artwork. The record as a whole talks about greed and paranoia and the effects of which and how they influence each other, as well as dealing with innocence and even death. So on that cheery note, join me as I go through the hidden gem that is Patrick Stump’s Soul Punk. 

A complete U-turn from the pop punk roots of Fall Out Boy, now on hiatus, Stump sought out to make an album with a sound he wanted to make, with nothing out of bounds. Citing icons such as Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie and Bobby Brown as lifelong inspiration, Soul Punk delves into the thick sounds of the ’80s. After having the album finished, two version of a lead single released, and the album ready for a February release, Stump wrote ‘This City’, which made him decide to completely redo the record, releasing the equally brilliant EP ‘Truant Wave’ in it’s place and leaving the album to be released later on in the year. With this, Stump really outdid himself just with the quality of music we were yet to be teased with. We were teased with a version of ‘This City’ featuring Lupe Fiasco, a love letter to the city of Chicago, where Stump was born and raised. A catchy soulful pop song that talks about the ups and downs of your hometown, but how no matter how hard you try, “you can never take my city away”, giving off similar thematic vibes to the previously released ‘Spotlight’. Although these tracks talk about being yourself and who you are, Stump stated the album was written a lot in character rather than self retrospectives, which is rather a thankful sign when the likes of ‘The “I” in Lie’ is on the album, a song about being unfaithful to your partner, but tracked to a sugary suggestive sounding instrumental. 

‘Explode’, the albums opening track goes off with a bang unsurprisingly, an upbeat banger with Stump singing the oh so addictive hook “Clap if you’ve got a ticket to the end of the world”, a song that hints at the issues and pressure of commitment, something no doubt everyone has felt at some point, singing “If I’m never your hero I can never let you down”, metaphors about cutting the red wire to defuse a bomb. A song that definitely speaks volumes about being the lead singer of a band that just went on an indefinite hiatus. But the album is filled with wonderful moments such as ‘Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers)’, a song about drinking, with lyrics being slightly concerning talking about how you know that it’s unhealthy, drinking to forget, making mistakes and by taking “one more shot then I’m quitting forever – cross my heart, cross my fingers”. There’s some, kind of deep stuff sung over beautiful funk songs all across this album, it’s really quite something. 

The track ‘Dance Miserable’ is a really solid pop song with a filthy sounding synth-bass riff. Lyrically it’s wonderfully relevant about feeling hard done by, fed up and angry with the world, talking about the issues of climate change, unemployment, depression, government and politics. “The right side’s in the wrong – And what’s left’s just holding on – And the public has been privatised – But I believe in something here on earth” talking about the power of people, despite wanting to “Dance like you’re disappointed in the world” Later in the album we get the bittersweetly uplifting song ‘Coast (It’s Gonna Get Better)’, a brilliant song with the message of not giving up, how things get bad, but no matter how bleak things get, that things will get better. 

Track 9 on the album and we’re given the sexy hunk of a song that is ‘Allie’, a funky pop song with a powerful pop punk style riff and killer guitar solo in the later half of the song. In fact this album shows some of Stump’s brilliant guitar work that wasn’t so obvious during the earlier days of Fall Out Boy. Tracks such as previously mentioned ‘Run Dry’ and deluxe bonus track ‘Bad Side Of 25’ shows some stellar solos, something generally missing from mainstream pop songs, especially of the era, yet Soul Punk combines so many genres so fluently, nothing clashes or doesn’t work, it’s ridiculous how well put together this album is from start to finish. The song ‘Everybody Wants Somebody’ showcases some bombastic trumpets, a singalong anthem for anyone going through the motions of liking someone that doesn’t feel the same way. Altogether this album is just an hour of feel good crescendos, almost laughing at the shitty parts of life in defiance whilst you sing along to scenarios from how awful people can be to searching for animals you’re unsure whether they even exist.

‘Run Dry’ encapsulates the hidden/bonus song ‘Cryptozoology’, an interesting song thematically, exclaiming “I don’t have to prove myself to you”, begging the question of is Stump singing from the perspective of the animals whom existence is being examined? There’s a lot of metaphors spilled throughout the record, some even I haven’t figured out yet. This album is a little bit mad but it makes for a very interesting, but mainly fun listening experience. There’s just some things in life that can’t be explained all that well and are better off letting the work speak for itself and sometimes I feel that way about Soul Punk. 

I will briefly touch upon ‘Truant Wave’ as well as it’s almost the foreword to Soul Punk, it’s other half if you will. And if you like what you hear across Soul Punk then you should definitely go and check out that EP too because no doubt it’ll quench your thirst for more Stump funk. As stated earlier, before Soul Punk was completed, Stump wrote two versions of his song ‘Spotlight’, and subsequently, one version ended up on the album, with the other on the EP and both songs are brilliant but the slower pace of Truant Wave’s version of the song ‘Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)’ just really melts you to the bone, it’s a really sincere song about how you don’t need something or someone else to prove your worth, and that “You can be your own spotlight”, a message that I think is still relevant today that far too many people don’t think about. 

The Soul Punk era may have only lasted about 2 years in it’s entirety, with Fall Out Boy starting to write music together again just a year after the release of Stump’s solo outing, and for that it’s too bad because it’s a fantastic record with a groovy sound that may have been ahead of it’s time. But in retrospect, it’s wonderful to see and listen to as a gateway to the past, and the one good thing in hindsight of it not being particularly well known is that there’s a whole album (and Extended Play) of music that people can discover and enjoy even 10 years after it’s release. 

I shall leave you with the video that started it all, the sneak preview at Stump’s solo work from 2010, that later became ‘As Long As I Know I’m Getting Paid’ from ‘Truant Wave’, which is essentially the genesis to Soul Punk, which features the original version of ‘Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)’ mentioned above. But please make sure you check out this wonderful record that really should have seen the success of it’s emo band cousins. Top tracks here are ‘Explode’, ‘Dance Miserable’, ‘Run Dry X Heart X Fingers’, ‘Greed’, ‘Everybody Wants Somebody’, ‘Allie’ and ‘Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)’. Soulful songs you absolutely cannot go wrong with. Get in touch and be a part of the conversation. What did you think of Soul Punk? Any hidden gems that you think we should know about? Any artists you think we’d love? Let us know. 

New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

Review: New Order – Be A Rebel

New Order in more recent years are a bit like Marmite. You either love them or you can’t stand them. Once the pioneers of ’80s dance and club music, now seen more an icon in British music as to what was. But despite members leaving and 2 breakups, the band are still making music, playing to audiences and showing continued success. After 2015’s ‘Music Complete’ with the odd live album released here and there, fans were wondering whether breakup number 3 could be on the way, curious as to whether the ’80s electronica power group would have any sort of real presence in the 2020’s. But here we are with the new single ‘Be A Rebel’.

‘Be A Rebel’, if you’ve been listening to New Order for the last 10 years wont come as any sort of surprise in terms of the sound, in fact I think it sounds like a B-Side to ‘Music Complete’, perhaps the 2015 album wasn’t as complete as we once thought, with Bernard Sumners saying the new single was a “leftover” that “didn’t make the cut” for 2015’s ‘Music Complete’ which you can tell just by listening. This isn’t inherently a bad thing though, I really liked the thematic sounds of the last album, and so hearing ‘Be A Rebel’ after 5 years of radio silence from New Order sparked some joy in my eye. If you liked the sound of the last album then you’ll probably love the new tune just as well. For me? I can appreciate using older work that never saw the light of release for future music, plenty of bands have done that, and done it marvellously well. But here, I don’t know how well it holds up. 

Now I’m not suggesting the song should have stayed a leftover, but it’s not the typical boom you get from New Order singles of the past. Tracks like ‘Krafty’, ‘Restless’ and ‘Regret’, they stick out, there’s a real sense of motion within those tracks, whereas here, ‘Be A Rebel’ is more of a quiet, dreamy, foot tapper than what we’ve heard from the band before. And I’m not comparing to the likes of ‘Blue Monday’ because that would be unfair, the band released that almost 40 years ago, and have gone through many musical changes since then, but one consistency I feel is missing here, is the power behind the track. It doesn’t sound too unlike the sounds from their last album and it doesn’t go off with a bang, which after 5 years, you would expect a bit of a rework when it comes to older music that never saw the light of day being released half a decade later. 

I’ve heard the comparison to the likes of Sumner and Johnny Marr’s supergroup duo ‘Electronic’ which you could argue the similarities sure, but there were already similarities to New Order back in Electronic’s heyday, so it all comes full circle, so of course work that heavily involves Bernard Sumner, will have sounds that Bernard Sumner is known for using. Perhaps I’m expecting too much from a band with such a high legacy. Perhaps the track is a grower not a shower. All I can say, is that if you’re expecting the next big wave of sound from New Order, then prepare to be disappointed. That being said, if you loved Music Complete, then you’ll probably really enjoy this. It’s by no means a bad single, but definitely feels a tad lacklustre. Opinions can change though, quite drastically, let’s not forget the certain “punch-your-TV-obnoxious” band that a particular music magazine once hated and now absolutely cherish. So in terms of changing tone on something you like or you don’t, I’m not going to be rash here. But I do think if we’re to expect a new record from the Mancunian monsters, I wouldn’t bet any money on ‘Be A Rebel’ being a part of a new and evolved sound. 

Lyrically the song comes across as pretty relevant, perhaps the recent Black Lives Matter protests are what sparked Bernard and company to revisit the track. The song talks about how the world can be a “dangerous place” but it’s “all we’ve got”, referring to people being “different” and that being okay. “Be a rebel, not a devil”. Clearly there’s a key element to rebelling against what we know is wrong, but doing so peacefully. Echoing terms we’re all grown up with like ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. It’s a clear outlook on the world from Sumner’s eyes, and from that regard is a very welcome conversation. Allies and Rebels are what the world needs right now to really make a change, so it’s a particularly prevalent topic that we should all take on board.  

If you want to hear a modern and more evolved take on the alternative dance, techno and club sound, I highly recommend listening to artists such as fellow Manchester band ‘Everything, Everything’, the Scottish trio ‘Chvrches’, London’s own ‘Georgia’ or simply go back and listen to New Order’s older material. Music has no expiry date, and it’s never the wrong time to stick on a classic, or discover a band that you don’t know much of the deeper cuts of their discography. 

The good news to take away from ‘Be A Rebel’ is that New Order have not slithered away into nothingness, and there’s hope for more music still to come. You can see New Order on tour in 2021 across the pond with the Pet Shop Boys, and a special one off UK show at London’s 02 Arena in November next year. Until then, let’s hope our Monday’s aren’t so blue.