In 2006, New Found Glory took their biggest risk as a band by releasing Coming Home, an album that largely abandoned the band’s customary pop-punk/easycore stylings. Produced by Thon Panunzio, Coming Home introduced more straight-forward rock elements that included keys, pianos, and strings – not surprising considering Panunzio has worked with some of the biggest rock legends of all time (Ozzy, Bruce, Joan Jett, etc.). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album fell flat commercially and was also the band’s last album to be released on a major label. But creatively and critically it was a success as Coming Home has been regarded as the band’s most daring effort of their career and let the pop-punk world know that New Found Glory would never make the same album twice. It also planted the seeds of what was to come ten years later.
The road to New Found Glory’s ninth full length album, Makes Me Sick, is paved with triumphant returns (Not Without A Fight), failures (Radiosurgery), and everything else in between (Resurrection). NFG continued to push their brand of pop-punk towards different genres and ideas, but Makes Me Sick is the record that finally puts it all together into one cohesive, consistent LP. The album’s ten tracks are pristinely produced by Aaron Sprinkle and are littered with the most synth and keys work since 2004’s Catalyst (which featured the band collaborating with James Dewees) and the aforementioned Coming Home. But rather than repeating history, Makes Me Sick effortlessly glides between the pop and rock spectrum. Opening track “Your Jokes Aren’t Funny Anymore” is the band’s most immediate track-one since “Understatement,” flawlessly blending Chad Gilbert’s power chords with Motion City Soundtrack-esque moog that’s instantly infectious, creating something that’s familiar but fresh-sounding at the same time.
Vocalist Jordan Pundik turns in his best effort in nearly a decade, his voice cutting like a knife through pop-punk bangers like “Party On Apocalypse” and “Happy Being Miserable,” while the duo of bassist Ian Grushka and drummer Cyrus Bolooki provide the backbone to island groovers like “Call Me Anti-Social” and “The Sound of Two Voices.” The latter is one of the band’s most dynamic curveball’s in its discography while the electrifying “Barbed Wire” wouldn’t sound out of place on the next Carly Rae Jepsen album. And “Blurred Vision” is Coming Home Ten Years Later; the jangly soft-rock chorus, shimmering synth, and soaring Gilbert guitar solo create one of the album’s best moments.
And the pop-punk lifers shouldn’t fret too much, however, as NFG sprinkled in just enough of its signature hooks within Makes Me Sick (“Say It Don’t Spray It” and “Party On Apocalypse”), but overall the album’s crisp thirty minute running time mainly features the band branching out. The band closes out the record with “The Cheapest Thrill,” a song that showcases the band nailing the sound they aimed for on Radiosurgery, finally perfecting that balance that record failed to achieve.
Enough cannot be said about Sprinkle’s production however; Makes Me Sick is New Found Glory’s best sounding record by a long shot. Nothing sounds dull at all – it’s bright without sounding too manufactured. It has the best guitar work of Gilbert’s career and sonically these tracks mesh so well with Pundik’s voice. The album is already pretty damn good but Sprinkle’s work elevates it to another level.
Twenty years into the game and New Found Glory continues to thrive in a genre that creates and spits out bands in no time, evolving with their sound while never giving in to what sells. Makes Me Sick is a testament to the band’s longevity and creativity. It also sounds like a band that’s having fun again, at last finding their footing as a song-writing quartet. Obviously, it would have been easy to continue to rest on their pop-punk laurels and continue to put out retreads of Stick and Stones and Not Without A Fight, but I appreciate the fact that NFG has never been afraid to fail. What the band has gone through since the release of Coming Home has all led up to Makes Me Sick, the band’s best record in nearly a decade. And no matter what path they take next, at least we know New Found Glory will continue to never hold back any punches.