Release Date: Mar 17, 2015
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Emo-Pop
The fourth studio long-player from the emotionally charged Orlando, Florida-bred, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based, melodic post-hardcore unit, Madness is also Sleeping with Sirens' debut for Epitaph Records, and it doubles down on the band's more populist leanings, offering up a slick, smart, and deliriously catchy set of punk-infused, modern rock radio fodder built around the distinctive tenor of frontman Kellin Quinn. Opening with the one-two punch of "Kick Me" and "Go Go Go," a double haymaker of sugary punk-pop shot through with enough generalized dystopian angst to rouse even the most medicated teenage outlier, the 13-song set is as infectious as it is perfectly contoured. One of the band's greatest strengths, outside of Quinn's explosive-tipped arrow of a voice (it invokes the post-Sunny Day Real Estate pop acumen of Jeremy Enigk), is their penchant for pairing vitriol with hope, and Madness, despite its foundation of heavy-heartedness, always allows the listener an emotional out.
With their latest album, Sleeping With Sirens have tried to appeal to every group that has ever taken an interest in their particular sound, creating a disorienting, cluttered set of songs that lacks any definitive direction. Over the years the band's sound has shifted from straightforward post-hardcore to something more accessible to a pop audience, but Madness is a muddled attempt at fusing both sounds within a single album.Songs like "Kick Me" and "Better Off Dead" reflect the band's post-hardcore roots, channelling high-energy riffs and more varied vocal styles, incorporating aggression into hooky choruses. It's in these moments that the band sound the most unified.
Who says you can’t please everyone? Oh, yeah: the internet. If Sleeping With Sirens are guilty of anything on their fourth album, it’s trying to unite various musical tribes (polished pop, post-hardcore, acoustic whimsy) under one all-encompassing banner. They’ve attempted this before on 2013’s Feel, but on Madness, it’s obvious they’re all in and not making empty gestures.
Anxiety about rock’s fading commercial prospects tends to focus on its bloated center, the overambitious bands like Imagine Dragons who aim for grand scale but have little substance to fill it in. But the frisson that could potentially keep rock broadly viable is often happening far from that center. Throughout the 2000s, it’s been punk and its many offshoots that have, in fact, been rock’s great pop hope, from pop-punk to emo to electro-punk.