Release Date: Nov 25, 2016
Record label: East West / EastWest / Rhino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
The first full-length album of new material from Busted since 2004's A Present for Everyone, 2016's Night Driver finds the British trio having evolved from a rambunctious pop-punk outfit into a slick, sophisticated purveyor of synthy, dance-ready pop and soul. The story goes that with the 2005 departure of singer Charlie Simpson, ostensibly to focus on his post-hardcore band Fightstar and his folky solo career, Busted called it quits. Remaining members James Bourne and Matt Willis opted to pursue their own projects, before coming together again in 2013 for a joint tour with McFly, billed as McBusted.
It’s very easy to be cynical about Busted 2016. Hell, it’s easy to be cynical about their previous incarnation, too. This writer certainly was upon spying their debut self-titled album in the rock/metal section of his favourite local music store back in 2002. Being an avid reader of Kerrang! and deep into a nu-metal phase (look, it produced more than its fair share of bangers, okay?), I eyed this obvious interloper among such luminaries as P.O.D., Static-X and Puddle of Mudd (okay, the genre also vomited up a cavalcade of horror) with all of the suspicion and disdain that a musically ignorant teen could muster.
Your enjoyment of former pop-punk trio Busted’s first album in 13 years depends on how you feel about returning hero Charlie Simpson’s voice. Ditching the fizzing guitars for percolating, Kavinsky-esque synth pop (the spectre of Drive hangs over the music and the album’s artwork), it’s Simpson’s huge larynx that dominates; he’s a honking presence on the expansive New York, while the chorus to Without It is practically pulverised into submission. Thankfully that throaty roar works much better on songs like moody opener Coming Home, and nothing can smother the undeniable 80s brilliance of the title track.