Since forming in 2015, The Regrettes have come a long way from being a teenage punk band releasing garage rock. The American band, known for their unapologetically honest songs, rose to popularity with a string of guitar-driven albums specialising in a smart, stylish hybrid of modern punk and retro new wave. While their records were hailed with adolescent excitement, they also demonstrated a pop sense so keen that it could have been called classicist if it weren’t for the nervy, punky energy pulsating through it. Following from their scuzzy punk guitar-driven sophomore album ‘How Do You Love?’ in 2019, The Regrettes have moved away from their punk roots and caved into their pop influences, which they have always tried to disguise, and entered what could be classed as their take on Paramore’s ‘After Laughter’ era.
Described as the “poppiest and danciest” album they’ve ever made, the bands third album ‘Further Joy’ is a vulnerable yet joyous self-aware soundtrack for those interested in “dancing the pain away.” The songs sport a shinier sound wrapped in an upbeat nature that will occasionally have you questioning your dancing due to the lyrics being wracked with deep anxiety and a sense of darkness. In some ways, it serves as a written manual for living in tough times, replete with highly personalised songs about things everyone is going through, as the band openly tackle topics they may have shied away from in the past such as anxiety, sexuality and the brutalities of a relationship.
Opening with the encompassing track ‘Anxieties (Out of Time)’, frontwoman Lydia Night tackles her own experiences with anxiety head-on. The chirpy nursery rhyme opener is full of unforgettable hooks and an earworm of synths that move at a panicked pace, sonically capturing the feeling of running out of time. The track captures the physical experiences of anxiety with impressive accuracy through its example of immediacy through the jolting production. It spirals and tightens with fraught, sharing an almost unbearable tension, leaving those listening with just a glimpse into life with a disorder. As the topic gradually turns into an exploration of existential crises and mental health, the track whisks you straight into an album full of raw honesty and eye-opening experiences.
Continuing to share her struggles with anxiety, lead single ‘Monday’ is another upbeat anxiety-ridden track. Written at the peak of her disorder, Night describes the poppy tune as a song of validation for her anxiety-related feelings and highlights the attainable yet ideal self that people have to come to terms with, and one that the album continuously pushes against, through the music videos character ‘Joy’. Touching on her path to self-acceptance, ‘Subtleties (Never Giving Up On You)’ feels super pretty and beautiful yet is one of the darkest songs on the album lyrically. The chilled out number remains at odds with its chirpy production whilst discussing everything from anxiety to recurrent body dysmorphia and the juxtaposition in lyrics to production keeps with Night’s commitment to “dancing the pain away.”
Although the subject matter is anything but light, the album couldn’t be more upbeat if it tried. Nearing the end of the album, the penultimate track ‘Nowhere’ draws inspiration from poet Alan – Watts before tackling feelings of inadequacies field by social media. The garage-punk throwback perfectly captures the message of the album and the lesson that the band convey as it tells the tale of chasing your own happiness.
It’s a sentiment that echoes the quote from prominent British philosopher Alan Watts, which plays out over the beginning notes of ‘Nowhere’: “You can’t live at all unless you can live fully now.” It carries through ‘Further Joy’, an album grounded firmly in the present, experiencing all the heightened emotions of the here and now in glorious fullness. For the band, it seems acceptance and ownership were fundamental for this album to come to fruition. Sometimes, things aren’t completely peachy, and yet at others, you might feel on top of the world. They immaculately capture those sensations in all of their intensity.
Despite the prevailing sense of anxiety and insecurity looming in the lyrics, the album finds its strength in concealing those evocative feelings behind catchy pop stylings. The record finds The Regrettes pushing their creative limits and editing their deepest truths resulting in both a brutally honest and joyful exuberant. Roaming between the soundscape of stripped-back guitars and fully-fledged pop, the resounding message of the ‘Further Joy’ is an optimistic one, acknowledging but refusing to be defined or drowned by life’s curveballs. It finds the band coming into their own, more unafraid and united than ever, with a record heavy in lyrical content but bright in tone.
Words: Shannon Garner
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