There are moments in our lives where we make a conscious effort to change the way we do things. Maybe it’s a change of careers, a lifestyle change of some sort, or an unforeseen change that’s completely out of our hands. New Found Glory are aware of all of these factors going into their latest album, Make The Most Of It, and they do their best to make the best out of a horrible situation. Guitarist Chad Gilbert’s cancer diagnosis influenced the majority of the songs on this album, but the overall message of hope and leaving behind a musical legacy are also prevalent here. Gilbert admitted, “I didn’t want this to be the ‘cancer record’ originally. But when we went on tour and people started hearing the story and connecting to it, I gave up on trying to control the narrative. Not all bands are dealt these cards, but we were. Let’s take these songs and help the disease get awareness and raise money for a cause that’s working on education and research for my rare cancer.” Make The Most Of It features several new songs, seven to be exact, with some reimagined acoustic versions added to end of the record to round things out. The reimagined songs came from their live set at Liberty Hall in Franklin, Tennessee, which came as a surprise to fans and myself alike. This seemed like a golden moment for NFG to give their fans acoustic studio versions of some of their favorite songs of all time, but instead it ends up as a missed opportunity.
New Found Glory has never shied away from their sensitive side, whether it comes from a pop-punk power ballad or reimagining their singles with an acoustic version. This side of them worked best on Coming Home, but the band has showed moments of promise throughout their tenure. New Found Glory have been called many things over their musical career, but “survivors” and “pop-punk legends” seem most appropriate now.
The record opens up with Jordan Pundik mic-checking his vocal levels before breathing the first words into existence on “Dream Born Again.” After singing the track’s chorus, the first verse of, “Picket fences, flower-filled landscapes / Does that not sound edgy enough? / Everyone’s bitter and on a mission / To one-up their peers and impress strangers / But I won’t give in, and I won’t give up / A real connection, a deeper love,” shows a group of musicians reflecting on what’s most important in their lives. The lead single features some nice-sounding acoustic guitar instrumentation, and if you’ve never seen New Found Glory live in an acoustic session, you’re missing out. I was able to catch them at an in-store signing and performance in Baltimore, Maryland a few years back, and their set included songs like “Too Good To Be,” “All Downhill From Here,” and “Sonny,” that all translated perfectly to the “fireside”-type setting. “Dream Born Again” is another song that I feel will be honored in their live sets for the foreseeable future, and invites an audience sing-a-long in its picturesque chorus.
”Mouth To Mouth” follows the solid opener and picks up the tempo a bit, as the rhythm section of Chad Gilbert, Cyrus Bolooki, and Ian Grushka plays and sounds like a band that has grown up together. Pundik’s chorus vocals of, “Mouth to mouth you saved me / Heart to heart you changed me / Hand in hand we walked through fire / Now side by side / The rest of our lives / We’ll never take a thing for granted / Don’t ever take a day for granted,” recount when Gilbert’s wife found him unresponsive and performed CPR on him to save his life. It was probably incredibly difficult for Gilbert and his bandmates to re-live this trauma, but they do so with grace and with a better outlook on their lives.
”Get Me Home” finds Gilbert reflecting on coming home from the hospital with a new perspective in his life. Lyrics like, “Her first steps / Are just around the corner / In no time she’ll be talking / I really want to take her shopping so / Help me see that through,” really hit home for me, being a father myself, and Gilbert hits the nail on the head about what makes this life worth living and enjoying. “Watch The Lilies Grow” ends up being one of the most gorgeous songs the band has written to date, and continues down the same theme of Gilbert reflecting on watching his daughter, Lily, grow up before his eyes. It’s a touching tribute to his daughter, and his optimism on being the best father he can never gets lost on him. When Jordan sings, “If I lost to this sickness / I’d still smile in heaven / Cause I’d watch you grow and send signals / A sudden breeze or a falling star / Because you are mine,” there surely won’t be a dry eye in the audience on New Found Glory’s acoustic tour.
My personal favorite on Make The Most Of It comes on “More Than Enough,” with its solid, driving bass line by Grushka throughout paired with backing guitars from Bolooki and Gilbert. This song works really well since it features a great sing-a-long chorus plus it has plenty of substance and merit to it in the lyrics. I really enjoyed the bridge of, “What the hell do they know / They can’t see past their own / Misery and prison / What the hell do I know / For starts, a whole lot more than them / We aren’t a match, we’re a kingdom / Yeah, we could get through anything,” and it is sure to make longtime fans of the band wonder just who they are talking about here.
”Kiss The Floor” is the penultimate new song on Make The Most Of It, and it continues to find the band reflective of their time left on earth. The concept of mortality and leaving a worthy legacy behind is felt on the opening lines of, “I often wondered how my days would all close out / Morbid thinking my family history / Stories I’d hear about if I had written down / All the entries a haunting series / Too unique to predict, unknowns and anxiousness / Debts I don’t owe, wasted payments / Today is all we get, I wanna live in it / Find its meaning, see your beauty.”
Closing out the first section of the main LP with “Bloom” showcases Jordan’s consistent improvement in the vocals department, and leaves the listener with some words of caution. The last lyrics of, “There are red flags lining your streets / But you won’t stop and look around / There are red flags lining your streets / But you won’t stop and look around / Wake up and smell the coffee,” are rather pointed and resonates well after the final chord is played.
The rest of the record is filled with classics like “Understatement,” “Dressed to Kill,” “My Friends Over You,” and “Hit or Miss” to close out this memorable chapter in the lore of New Found Glory. While having re-imagined acoustic studio versions of these songs may have been more rewarding for longtime fans, hearing the loud audience participation on these live recordings is what NFG has always been about: getting fans of all types together to sing their hearts out in unison. Make The Most Of It recognizes both parts of this, and leaves behind a nice bookend to this “story so far.”