When I first heard Gnarwolves after the release of their second EP, Cru, I instantly fell in love with the band. I then checked out their first EP, Fun House, and again loved it. Next they released a third EP named Funemployed and again I loved it. They released all three EPs together as a compilation album named Chronicles Of Gnarnia and it became one of my go to albums, whenever I wasn't sure what to listen to I usually found myself listening to Chronicles. Then Gnarwolves released their first proper album which was self titled. Whilst I did enjoy that album it never hit me as well as the band's previous work. Then the band released a new single named Adolescence and I had honestly no interest in it at all. So when news of a new Gnarwolves album came out I was slightly sceptical. Named Outsiders and released on Big Scary Monster Records, I, with a little trepidation, checked it out.
Just looking at the album art I got a small sense that this would be a more mature sounding Gnarwolves. Gone are the trademark slimy letters and cartoon skateboarders and what we have now is a mostly black record sleeve aside from some simple white text and a small photo of some lampposts. Outsiders begins with the song Straitjacket. Straitjacket is a straightforward punk rock song which eases you into Outsiders superbly with its simple and catchy lyrics that allow you to sing-along with it after just one listen. Something that really stands out after a couple of listens is drummer Max Weeks's tremendous work behind the kit, doing a first class job on driving the song forward with some incredible drumming. The first time I heard Car Crash Cinema I was instantly reminded of Bangers (RIP). It's a more melodic style of punk than the usual fast paced thrashy shred that Gnarwolves are known for. I love this change of style, really showing a skill in song writing and proving they are not one trick ponies The "all in this together" vibe Gnarwolves have always had in their music remains as despite the sonic change this remains a massive, fists up, voices loud banger. The third song, Wires, does see Gnarwolves return to their familiar gruff pop punk sound. This song is about living your life on the edge, knowing that you might mess things up but still being prepared to live your life that way.
Paint Me Like A Martyr is a song that is carried by Max's tremendous drumming. He pounds his way right through the song giving it a heavier sound. I loved the way that the drums, guitars and vocals all do their own thing on this song, giving it a fresh and unconventional sound that you don't often hear in the pop punk genre. The fifth song, English Kids, is about not wanting to live your life the way popular society thinks you should but not knowing what you want to do. I loved the opening line of the song. After a slightly grungey sounding guitar intro, the words "Forming A Straight Line, On A Crooked Mile Is No Easy Kind Of Life," really pulled me into the track. From then on the song just gets better and better. Argument is like no Gnarwolves song I've heard before. It's a slower paced indie pop punk song. There is definitely none of the thrashiness that the band are well known for and I think it's extremely refreshing to hear the band attempt such a different style. Not only do they attempt it, they do it so bloody well! Despite the slower pacing of the song it feels so upbeat and like a defiant summer sing-along track. It's the sort of song that is impossible not to smile along with when you're singing it. The Comedown Song sees the band pick the pace up but sticks to the pop sensibilities. This is a fairly melodic sounding track, it shows more of a restrained approach. I do get a sense that things will eventually explode into life but it never does. I like that.
Gnarwolves have done something so great on this record, they've managed to change up their style but still sound unmistakably like Gnarwolves. The best example of this is on the song Talking To Your Ghost. Production wise it's great, it sounds polished but still has a rough charm about it. Talking To Your Ghost is the kind of song that could help Gnarwolves achieve some well deserved mainstream success as it's wonderfully accesible to fans of all genres of music rather than just die hard punks. It's a plodding song from start to finish with Thom's vocals carrying the majority of melody. The penultimate song is brilliantly named Channelling Brian Molko. For those who don't know Brian Molko is the lead singer and guitarist of British rock band Placebo. It's a song about not being sure about who you are anymore and trying to find a way to discover yourself. Beginning with some more of the fantastic drumming that's been a big feature on Outsiders, on this song the band really find the perfect middle ground between the old and new Gnarwolves sounds that will please all fans of the band. I loved the use of the riff from Placebo's classic Nancy Boy, very creative song writing. Gnarwolves finish Outsiders with potentially the best song they've ever written. Shut Up is an almost seven minute long epic. I never, ever expected Gnarwolves to write a song like this but my word they did a fantastic job of it. Shut Up starts out at a slow pace and continues this way throughout the majority of the track, as Thom sings a story about the end of a relationship and the terrible place you can find yourself in. Thom's vocals are perfect here, you can really feel his pain. Just incredible stuff.
Outsiders is a wonderful accomplsihment from the Gnarwolves lads. Proving they are much more than one trick ponies with this wonderfully mature sounding effort. I feel like those first three EPs will always be my favourite Gnarwolves releases but this album is a real close contender. If you weren't so sure on Gnarwolves before you should definitely check out this album. It'll change your mind on the band.
Buy Outsiders here: https://www.banquetrecords.com/gnarwolves/outsiders/outsiders
Like Gnarwolves here: https://www.facebook.com/Gnarwolves/
This review was written by Colin Clark.