Late last year, known songwriter/musician Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 found himself depressed. When discussing his attitude with his wife, she encouraged him to do what makes him most happy, which was to go to the studio and make music. He paired up with Jack Saunders, an old friend, and guitarist from All Time Low, and after a day of messing around they had created something they both enjoyed. Pairing up, they called their new project Simple Creatures. Their debut EP dropped earlier this week, and here is a track by track review for Sensibly Loud Media.
1. Drug – The EP opens in a distorted swell of twangy guitar, quickly paired with vocals and a synthetic drum track. It is dance-y, poppy, and sweet enough to give you cavities. Like almost anything Mark Hoppus has produced or been a part of, his vocals are iconic, and immediately stand out in the track. From an engineering standpoint, he layers his vocals; something he has been experimenting with in depth since 2006 and his alt-punk band, (+44).
The structure of Drug is pretty straight forward: intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, post-chorus, repeat. While it is formulaic, it is one that has worked for both Hoppus and Saunders in their previous projects. It is in the chorus where Saunders debuts his vocals, and then carries the second verse. The bridge of the song is really where the formula changes. While the music theory is there (switching to the fourth of the key), the effects are that of an etherial harpsichord, layered with Saunders vocals, echoed and haunting.
“I can’t tell whats real and when I’m dreaming anymore…” reminds us of the nature of the song is that of a drug induced summer, mirroring that of a toxic, one-sided relationship where the singer is the one who is being strung along by an absentee partner. “Can’t get enough of your drug.”
Surprisingly, the section of the song that sticks with me the most is the outro. There is a synthesized back-beat, with Saunders’ vocals from the bridge modulating between the listener’s ears. Suddenly, the beat ends with a snap. I like how crisp this finished, and made me excited for the rest of the EP.
This song is (so far) the standout track from this E.P. Released in late January, it already has over 2.3 million streams on Spotify.
2. Strange Love – After less than 50 seconds of listening to the second track, it is clear why this is the title track of Simple Creatures debut EP: it is catchy in all the right ways.
The song starts suddenly: only a mild laser-like noise before Hoppus drives away with his bass and vocals, thumping along, narrating the relationship between an un-named partner and the love they share. The vocals are in a classic Hoppus style – illustrating details of physical intimacy and ending the phrase with a poetic twist.
There is no pre-chorus to this song, which I really enjoyed. Once the verse finishes, Saunders dives right in to the next line. The music drops, leaving us just a vocal track and an intricate guitar melody. Once it repeats, the drums and vocals build, crescendo-ing towards a festival-esque bass drop. It is clear why Simple Creatures are playing the festival circuit this summer.
Lyrically, the second verse to this song is my favorite. The vocals tell the story of expensive drinks, lovers at night, and a shallow morning after.
I am still getting used to the instrumental post-chorus, but can easily see the ear-worm sticking with me, and me singing it to myself while I go about my day, fueling up my Escape, and embracing the Spring as I drive through the city with the windows down.
3. How to Live – The third track begins with Saunders singing to an unknown person. This song has hits of R&B thrown in: the grove, the vibe, the after effects on the vocals.
“I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but maybe we just don’t know when to quit the lie…” The chorus is a sad melody about a bipolar partner, and the realization that a once valued relationship is fizzling out.
I enjoyed how this song is the first that really features Saunders musicianship. It is a well written track, and a welcome change of pace from the boppy opening number. That said, it is the furthest deviation so far from their established formula of success. I can see that some fans will love this song, and others not so much.
4. Adrenaline – This song starts with a very 8-bit sounding melody, and then erupts into a dance groove, reminding me of the Cure or the Smiths, mixed with (+44).
I enjoy how the verse builds on this song. The groove between the drums, bass, and vocals, then added to with alternating guitar leads before the swell of the chorus simply works. If you’re focused on the music, you miss the cool story of the verse, finally hearing the plea to “hit me with adrenaline”. Then, go back and re-listen. “You’re no Mary Antionette, so save it for the internet…” Is my favorite line of the second verse. It shows that Simple Creatures know they are writing music for 2019 listeners, and that social status on different media platforms matters, especially to the Generation Z listeners.
This song is catchy where it counts, and suctions well as a buffer between the first and second half of the EP.
5. Ether – This is easily the most brooding song on the EP. The tones of breathing/suffocation, mixed with the message of self discovery and awareness, specifically in the second verse make this a dark composition.
I especially like the syncopated electric guitar build on the verses, as well as the hook on the later choruses. Effects seem almost overdone on this song, but it does work with the lyrics, vacant though they seem at times.
I think this is a very different song, especially from the other song about substances or numbing ones-self heard in Drug earlier on Side A. Part of me is thinking this might be setting up to the second EP, which will debut later this year.
“You can gasp for air or take the ether, hold your breath above, you won’t get either…”
6. Lucy – Wow. This is the most surprising song on the EP.
The track begins with a grooving bass line, modulated through some sort of distortion, perhaps a Big Muff. It drives, it sets the tone of the song. Excitement, maybe summer. I could hear this as a montage song in a chase movie.
Then, the lyrics confirm that feeling.
The verses tell of an existence of malaise, and a need for excitement. Then, the pre-chorus hurries in like a spoken poem, a rap, of sorts. It builds.
When the music drops with the lyrics, “Leave the handgun, take the cash.” you know this is a different kind of song.
Then, a big wall of crunchy guitars, synthesized melodies, and “Oooh’s” latch to your eardrums as you find yourself singing along.
The trade off in the vocals is most well executed on this song, culminating in Saunders and Hoppus singing together for the pre-chorus breakdown.
This song makes the most effort at telling a story. You can find yourself with these two as they hide from the police, robbing a diner, and impressing “Lucy”, who seems to be the brains of this particular heist. As Hoppus and Saunders are along for the ride, they bring us along, as well. What a ride it is.
All in all, I give Strange Love the debut EP from Simple Creatures a solid “A- to A” grade. I am excited to see what this band has in the works.