The pop-punk and hardcore hybrid is a slippery slope, a dangerous combination that several bands try, but only a handful have achieved success with. The genre is a balancing act of sorts, juggling when to utilize clean and heavy vocals with success often relying on the group’s careful deliberation of how often to bring breakdowns and electronic effects into the fray. Like creating Dr. Jekyll’s mind-altering potion, any failed miscues with the elements of pop-punk sensibilities and hardcore mentality could result in a disaster of epic proportions.
Luckily, Life on Repeat is one of the bands who are quickly making a name for themselves, proving their capabilities on their debut full-length, Struggle + Sleep. Over the course of ten songs, the outfit showcases their mainstream appeal without sacrificing their raw emotions that fuel the record at the altar of radio friendliness.
The record begins on a note reminiscent of genre heavyweights A Day to Remember with the title track. It opens at a heavy pace courtesy of drummer David Walker, with plenty of electric guitar squeals and nearly-shouted vocals that launch into a chorus worthy of a mosh pit singalong. Even the breakdown is well-timed, and injects the track with enough adrenaline to keep up its breakneck energy.
Listeners might feel the need to adjust their headphones when “The Waiting Game” starts up, with a poppy intro that’s heavy-handed on the Autotune. While the song drops some of the heavy instrumentation of the opener, it should get the mainstream alternative rock crowd tapping their toes and tying up the request lines at their local radio stations, begging for some Life on Repeat to be played, pronto.
The album verges on post-hardcore territory with “The Need, Not the Cause” and “Rock the Boat,” and while dropping some of the poppier influences, maintains a blistering storm of emotion with guitar riffs from the tandem threat of Zack King and Andrew Baylis to match. Followed by songs like the rollicking pop-rock of “Southern Girls” and the straightforward guitar anthem “Feet Under,” the album strays from leaning towards any one genre as Life on Repeat refuses to be pigeonholed into one clearly defined sound.
“Layover Letdown” is probably the most single-worthy standout: two parts angsty emo, two parts mainstream alternative rock, and one part hardcore ethos, it’s a three minute singalong driven by soaring vocals by frontman Pat Purves.
Struggle + Sleep closes out on three of its strongest tracks, ranging from “Sinking,” a track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Finch album, to “Without You Here,” an obligatory heartstring-tugging acoustic ballad that’s tailor-made for end of summer beach bonfires, and coming to a screeching halt after the raw energy packed into “Wide Awake.”
Life on Repeat has shown skills beyond their years on this frenetic debut record, and will be able to grow into their sound comfortably as they progress as a breath of fresh air in a cluttered sound.