Wherever The Park Ends by Youngest and Only toes the line between pop-punk and hardcore in a way that should be right up my alley. Unfortunately, the way the record is sequenced makes it hard to get into.
Wherever The Park Ends’ opening tracks “To Be Heard” and “Midazolam” have the light, melodic sensibility, and the aggressive guitar, bass, and drum grooves, of a Paramore track, although lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Joseph Stevens’ voice sounds rougher than anything Hayley Williams ever attempts. This roughness is best displayed on my favourite track, a short and sour hardcore song called “The Ring.” However, despite how much I love this song, it’s the first culprit of the record’s sequencing problem; it is way heavier than anything else on the record thus far. The song’s clean vocals are haunting and beautiful, and I wish their talent for melody was used to create moments like this more often.
“Wrong and Empty” completely switches gears with a light and bouncy vibe that sounds almost like a ska song. Compared to “The Ring,” the song is stereotypical and boring, a problem compounded by its lyrics. “Sleeping Right Through You” brings the band’s hardcore influences back to the forefront, and despite being a killer song I’d loved to hear live, it gives the listener whiplash and makes it difficult to appreciate. However, the song does slow down a few times to allow the listener to catch their breath. The fast-paced drumming and guitar riffs on this song are exceptional. Andrew’s melodic-but-rough voice shines once again, as does his ability to match the song’s fast pace in a way that reminds me of The Flatliners‘ early output. The punishing grooves and riffs that make up the instrumental at the song’s conclusion will have you headbanging the whole time. “Kind” is similarly aggressive, but for that reason it fails to really stand out. Had it been placed earlier on the record, perhaps right before “The Ring,” it might have drawn more attention. “Ensign and Andover” ends the record on a light and bright note, making me wish it had appeared earlier on the record.
On their own, I like every song on this record, I just wish their sonic diversity had been more delicately managed. Wherever The Park Ends could have easily felt like a cohesive body of work, but the order in which the songs were placed made it sound more like a random collection of songs, something that is especially easy to avoid on a record that only has seven tracks. This misstep might have been excusable were this the band’s first offering, but they’ve already released a few EPs. At least the songs themselves are strong enough to make me curious and willing to investigate those other albums to see if they suffer from the same problem.
Written by Brian Charles Clarke
*edited by Kate Erickson