WHAT: Peach Club (Hopeless Records)
WHY: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a situation: Emarosa is dead.
Here’s the thing: if you are an Emarosa fan, listened to 131 (their last album) and didn’t see this coming even a little bit, the general concensus is that you were not paying attention. I mean, come on: “Helpless,” anyone? The only thing missing was a sequined glove.
The ‘this’ referenced is obviously the Kentucky native band’s almost whiplash-inducing pivot from their alt-rock/post-hardcore roots to an arms-wide-open embrace and French kiss of their late 80s pop star fantasies on their new album, Peach Club. So much so that if Walden ever ditches that leather jacket, I can see Member’s Only in his future.
And that’s what we’re dealing with: a band that’s always had a way with an odd rock hook teams up with producer Courtney Ballard (Jessie J, Tori Kelly, 5 Seconds of Summer) to make it all pop sweeter to the touch and borderline anthem-sized as evidenced by the album’s first single, “Givin’ Up.” It’s a neat trick if you can pull it off without musically faceplanting.
Insert shocked face *here* because they pulled it off like bosses, doing their impression of William Wallace: FREEDOM! As an outfit 5 albums deep that has had as much bandmember turnover as Emarosa has (only guitarist ER White remains of the original lineup), perhaps the identity dust that got kicked up when Walden stepped in on vocals has finally settled and the collective desire to make music that serves no one but themselves is real. This is Walden’s third Emarosa record and, apparently, third time’s the charm.
At 11 songs, Peach Club is banger-frontloaded for maximum effect (see the fact that your ass will have difficulty staying still in its seat) before easing up on some of that boisterous energy en route to a soft, but surprisingly, satisfying closing. Energy that is directed towards typically complicated and angsty emotional terrain, but the difference is now all of the bad shit sounds kinda fun and has a funkier depth, groove and precise sonic shine to it, even on the sharper-edged “Help You Out” and “Hell Of It” – both of which could easily be 131 orphans. Because how bad can “So Bad” be when it feels like Shalamar? If you’re old enough, think about that and, in the meantime, cue the musical progression of synths, a one-off brass section moment and Walden singing his ass off. Oh yeah, that dude has upped his game.
You see, the soul man in Walden has always been there: he’s never had as much musical space to come out and play as he does on Peach Club. Here he’s tapping the extent of his range and singing with R&B flexibility instead of just belting. Bending lyrics and notes instead of simply blowing through them and even throwing in outro adlibs (no, that is not a typo) while on occasions like “xo” and “Comfortable” he gets his croon on with the latter gleaning a subtle throb reminiscent of Janet Jackson’s “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun).”
Glossier sound, unabashed blasts of shamelessly fierce hooks, guitars, and choruses that would make Britney Spears offer you some bubblegum. It’s a little delicious like candy…yet still a rock record. Imagine that.
Now will there will be some push back? Just like clockwork, but this ain’t your brother’s Emarosa, kids, and considering that the band approached this album with zero artistic restraints, it warrants an in-kind approach to the listening. Because Peach Club is the sound of a band comfortably unbeholden to any sound that doesn’t please them. Consider it a rock/pop revo/evolution in effect and I’m not mad at it.
Emarosa is dead, long live Emarosa. And welcome to the club.