By Phillip Morgan
If you’re exhausted to near total breakdown by bands who constantly refer to their sound as “the sole example of true *insert ‘city’ here* punk,” then a swift burst of fresh air awaits you on I Love Your Lifestyle’s debut LP. The latest export from the small but strong DIY scene in Gothenburg, Sweden that previously gave us Makthaverskan and Westkust, ILYL carve their own territory by rejecting the trappings of the Gothenburg scene’s panda poppare past at every turn. You will find no shimmery post-punk guitar lines or melancholy duets on We Go Way Back; nor will you catch any of the band members in quasi-mod attire frowning in front of a monochrome skyline. In fact, pretty much everything about ILYL boast a sunnier, more energetic disposition than their overseas peers, and the band revels in the carefree excitement.
Non-Denominational Emo Records brought We Go Way Back stateside, and barely a minute into opener “Nice Jacket. Not.” It becomes clear what drew them to ILYL. The band prove formidable European cousins to emo cult favorites Algernon Cadwallader and Marietta, with frontman Lukas Feurst channeling the sing/shout spirit of Peter Helmis as blistering pseudo-math guitar melodies buzz by on nearly every song. However, where their predecessors relied on skeletal jangle-pop chords to hold the music together, guitarists Joel Bjurbo and Oscar Johansson instead beef up the backing rhythms with lush distortion. The change-up adds a thin layer of grit that gels easily with Feurst’s harsh vocals and provides a sturdier foundation for their breakneck melodies.
Meanwhile, drummer Fredrik Dahlqvist further defies indie/emo convention by keeping the beats relatively simple and maintaining the energy surge needed to keep pace with the guitars. His restraint gives We Go Way Back a much more straightforward feel than many of ILYL’s contemporaries, though he does have some shining moments on tracks like “Oh, Twisted Me” and “Brain Freeze.” Their rarity actually works in the band’s favor, introducing Dahlqvist as a deceptively talented punk drummer rather than an average math-rock drummer and re-energizing sections where the melody’s caffeine high briefly cools down.
Unfortunately, the emphasis on emotive projection (translation: singing but also kind of shouting) in Feurst’s vocal style sometimes lets the lyrics blend into the noise around him. Some of these moments feel like Feurst is attempting to emulate the intense swells and dives found in the more anthemic Algernon tracks. But his rougher delivery lacks the finesse and dynamic range that would suggest he’s intentionally obscuring the lyrics. As the record surges forward, he sounds less like he’s riding the wild haze and more like he’s letting it envelop him.
With that said, when the lyrics do push through to the surface, we learn that beneath all of We Go Way Back’s vibrant urgency is a genuine lament of friends growing apart, mostly through Feurst confronting the stagnation of those around him. “Common Sense” shows Feurst denouncing the “hipster hypocrites” and “douches constantly mansplaining” to women who dispute them. “Nice Jacket. Not.” wrestles with the creeping influence of social media as he admits, “I feel a bit ashamed / because once I got really happy / I got 50 likes.” There’s no room for subtle wit amidst ILYL’s sonic hurricane, and Feurst’s blunt honesty feels right at home, even when he strains to cut above the noise.
Where most late-February releases sound mired in the post-winter sludge, ILYL easily brush off the heaping snow and icy winds, delivering an album that will rocket you into springtime whether or not you’re ready for the sunshine. But the warmth and exuberance ILYL bring on their debut doesn’t just come from the hyperactive guitars or constant adrenaline rush of their music. Those merely feed the core engine. At its heart We Go Way Back is a reminder that not every emo band relies on dark atmospherics and somber lyricism to leave an impact. Sometimes catharsis comes from dancing in the sunshine; freezing temperatures be damned.