By signing to legendary record label Fueled By Ramen and building a sizable presence on TikTok, everything is lining up for Waterparks, an experimental, genre-bending pop-punk group. Of course, the tastes of the general public are not only welcoming to the style at its core, but are also becoming increasingly open to hyperpop-style explosions of quirky, nostalgic mayhem that add a sense of goofy fun to everything. what the band is bringing to the table in their latest. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY is the band’s fifth studio album, and over the course of a brief 31 minutes, Awsten Knight and his bandmates infuse the typically brilliant and iconic melodies associated with their genre with elements of metal, synthpop, trap, and impressively acoustic riffs. stippling, all while delivering some lyrics that range from wry to genuinely poignant takes on religious guilt. While there are a couple of left-field moments that show why some listeners treat the band like a giant joke, Waterparks invites us to have a little fun.
I’ve seen the opening track, ST*RF**KER – some of the asterisks are mine, some are the band’s – described as a litmus test of how much listeners are willing to enjoy the band’s madness, and with its short running time it’s well placed to be exactly that. A high-speed, high-energy track with a syncopated bassline and drum n’ bass percussion section, it combines with Knight’s typical tenor and the inflections of a tried-and-true pop-punk singer in a curiously infectious way that would appeal to any hyperpop fan. . As the band adds some cascades of twinkling synths and high pitches in the back end, the impressive part is just how wild and busy the song is, but never to an overwhelming degree. It leads to “REAL SUPER DARK”, one of the heavy songs on the project. If you haven’t fully bought into the water park spirit yet, I might see how the distorted, half-rapped verses as Knight pushes his voice to the edge would be too much for you. The chorus, however, with some low-end guitar revs reminiscent of early Muse and some paranoid triplet flows, should be undeniable. One of the biggest manifestations of the band’s spirit is in the transitions between tracks: many of them start immediately on beat 1, and because they sound so different, the sudden switch to the upbeat acoustic riff of “FUNERAL GRAY” is reason. of hilarity. The song might also have one of the best hooks of the year so far. Like the best pop-punk choruses, it’s direct when it needs to be and soft when it needs to be—the way Knight sings of a lost connection. The melody when it unexpectedly descends the scale in “I didn’t understand his name” is the real earworm.
The track “BRAINWASHED” actually has an even better acoustic riff, containing an impressively fast fingerpicked moment that rounds out an incredibly nostalgic sound – reminiscent of the peak days of Disnified pop-rock when a song like “Tonight Tonight” by Hot Chelle Rae was at the top of the charts. A bubbly, happy sentiment with some crunching guitars in the background, Knight sings about feeling like he’s losing his mind in the early stages of an exciting relationship and recounts staying longer than he expected with frantic delivery. The delightfully rhythmic “symmetrical feelings match best when we’re looking at the ceiling” has to be the best pop lyric someone like Carly Rae Jepsen has ever written. Strip out the swearing and the fact that it’s a wild night, “2 BEST FRIENDS” is a bouncy 2-minute track that sounds like it’s from a kids’ TV show. With a unique echo synth tone forming the hook, the band continues to show that they have some untapped 100 gecs-style energy. “END OF THE WATER (FEEL)”, on the other hand, is the biggest swing and a miss when it comes to its experimental attitude. With an appropriately washed-out, watery vibe, Knight’s reach into the thunderous upper register of him feels very unearned, and one of the hooks that doesn’t land so immediately on the others wasn’t the time to test it. Returning to the ethereal sound of the hook so quickly kills the constant uptempo drive that colors the rest of the project as well.
Another one that’s in the same ballpark as “FUNERAL GREY” hook-wise is the track “SELF-SABOTAGE”, and the most infectious part has to be Knight going up about two octaves in the space of about two seconds. A relatively standard pop-rock track by Waterparks standards, it still throws an experimental twist at listeners at the end as the typical guitar backdrop shifts into digitized 8-bit synth territory as Knight sings about not being able to accommodate. and allow yourself to be happy. in a relationship. “RITUAL”, however, has to be the most chaotic track on the entire project. With eerie melodies and a relentless drum machine in the back, Knight tries to reach their religiously traumatized inner child through a tongue twister of lyrics that only hit harder when a heavy snare beat drops behind them in the second. verse. It’s all centered around a chorus with some furious guitars, mixed much better than you normally hear these days, and Knight using some of his closest metal inflections.
Although one of the best things about INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY it’s how much it defies the modern day pop-punk model of Travis Barker, one of his biggest collaborators on blackbear still appears on the project, lending a guest verse to “F**K ABOUT IT.” But when we’re expecting changes to the formula, it’s actually great to hear his auto-tuned cadence as he duets Knight on another catchy hook about relationship dysfunction: the two go out of their way to avoid real conversation. . Before the oversized close, a different “CLOSER” offers a slower, more tender melody. The standard rock beat and distinct lack of madness or fantasy in this one make it sink to the bottom, but it’s definitely competently done. Finally, “A NIGHT OUT ON EARTH” extends the runtime as Knight dives into some more specific and important issues about the struggles he faced growing up in Texas as a bit of a maverick and dealing with his faith while out having fun. .
As the drum n’ bass vibes return and the final track even becomes a small exercise section, the water parks leave a lasting impression as experimenters to be reckoned with. Seemingly rapidly gaining more recognition and connections despite having five albums, the reinvigorated pop-punk scene might be having its biggest disruptor.
Favorite songs: FUNERAL GREY, RITUAL, BRAINWASHED, SELF-SABOTAGE, 2 BEST FRIENDS
Least Favorite Track: END OF THE WATER (FEEL)