Change can be one of the most difficult things we ever go through. Changing jobs/careers, changing relationships, or even changing the way we go about our daily routines can lead to stress and several pitfalls. New Found Glory certainly changed the approach to their songwriting and trademark pop-punk sound in favor a sleek pop-based sound on Coming Home. While some argued this change was not for the better, there is still a large number of fans who point to this record marking a turning point in the band’s career that showcased that NFG was not a one-trick pony. The band was just coming off a grueling, nearly two-year long promotional cycle of their last album, Catalyst, before wanting to unwind and breathe a little bit. The set was co-produced by the band and Thom Panunzio, and the main songwriting and demoing was completed in Malibu, California in a large house known as the Morning View Mansion. While this isolation could have led to darker-toned material, the band instead embraced this freedom with some of their best songwriting to date, filled with lush vocal takes and vibrant guitar parts. Coming Home was nearly buried by Geffen Records right out of the gate, and the band only had the backing of one radio single in “It’s Not Your Fault” to show for their efforts. This album seemed to divide many fans. While some, including myself, pointed to this record as the best version of New Found Glory, others couldn’t get past how different the sound was from their previous records to fully embrace it. The new-found interest in Coming Home sparked recently with the first-ever vinyl release of the album, and it led to more continued conversations around this true gem of a record.
From the slow-churning guitar opening on “Oxygen” to the closing, layered vocal harmonies on “Boulders,” New Found Glory proved that they were far from “just another pop-punk band.” Instead, they proved that they could adapt to various styles and write some of their best material to date in Coming Home. “Hold My Hand” made good use of the added keyboards to their sound to make for another obvious choice of a second single if Geffen Records had chosen to give Coming Home the proper commercial push. “It’s Not Your Fault” expanded upon this keyboard-based approach with some of the best vocals of Jordan Pundik’s career with a slow-building verse all leading up to a crowd-pleasing chorus. The music video threw a lot of fans off because the band appeared more solemn, and weren’t their usual high-energy self, until the last closing bars that showed the band on stage rocking out with fans. I found this to be a curious choice in marketing the new single. If the band had come out with say “Hold Your Hand” or even the title track with a more raucous performance-based video, would the record have been more of a success? It’s really hard to say.
My personal favorite in the set comes in the pop bliss of “On My Mind.” It features more great vocals from Pundik that are layered around Chad Gilbert and his bandmates’ backing vocals to make for a lush-sounding song that could’ve done well in the right pop markets today. More somber songs like “Make Your Move” feature some great guitar riffing by Gilbert, and on-point drumming/percussion from Cyrus Bolooki to round out the sound that New Found Glory were going for here. Mid-tempo rippers like “Taken Back By You” and the largely acoustic-guitar based “Too Good To Be” still find their way into occasional live set from the band to date, as they showcase the improved depth of their songwriting chops.
”Love and Pain” is a song that easily could’ve found its way on previous NFG records as it features some squealing guitar parts, and a very NFG-type chorus with sing-a-long prompts. “Familiar Landscapes” is the only song that truly feels like they were trying to go down the rabbit hole of mid-tempo songs on purpose to round out their musical repertoire. I found the second verse to be particularly powerful as they navigate with, “You feel deeply misplaced / Your world has been built to crumble / You hope and you pray / Every day, it works out / And it leaves me with this empty feeling / I just can’t take it anymore / What do you want from me? / What do you want from me? / What do you want from my life?” It’s almost as if the band is speaking directly to their fanbase at the same time as telling their story through their music.
”When I Die” is another one of those great pop songs that has that major label backing to lift it to the next level, with sweeping orchestral instrumentation, to make it sound simply gorgeous. “Connected” is another great New Found Glory song that ties together the best parts of the sound the band was going for on Coming Home, while still staying true to their pop-punk roots. An interesting tidbit I noticed while doing my research on this album is that the Wikipedia page for the album still references it being one of Drew Beringer’s favorite songs to come out that year, so hell yeah to Drew for recognizing the greatness back in 2006 as well.
My fondest memory of Coming Home is getting to talk to the band themselves about their great accomplishment and calculated risk in releasing this album when their popularity seemed to be at an all-time high after Catalyst. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why longtime fans of New Found Glory would point to this album as an “abandonment” of their great sound. I felt this was the truest version of the band coming through the speakers and it made me realize just how damn talented these musicians were. The band, at the time of meeting them, knew that they were going to be dropped from a major label, but they took this all in stride and found themselves at a crossroads of trying to figure out what their fans wanted from them. By changing their approach to songwriting, Coming Home became one of those albums with a certain mystique around it that more seasoned fans can still look back fondly upon, even if they didn’t appreciate what they had sixteen years ago.