ALBUM REVIEW: Fandom by Waterparks

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WRITTEN BY: Hannah Kay

Time’s a pretty funny thing. This week in particular has dragged by like a shambling, reanimated corpse, but at the same time it feels like it was July yesterday. In terms related to the subject matter at hand, it feels simultaneously like a few months and a few years since Waterparks dropped their sophomore LP Entertainment. The real amount of time falls somewhere a few months short of two years, but when a band has such a commanding energy both on and offstage like Waterparks does (owing that almost entirely to eccentric, loud, and honestly kind of genius frontman and rhythm guitarist Awsten Knight), their presence is sorely missed when they slumber for a bit. 

A lot has happened in the time that they took off between album cycles – the quieter members of the threepiece, drummer Otto Wood and lead guitarist Geoff Wigington kept up their private streak, with the latter allowing a brief peek into his life by announcing the birth of his daughter Farore during the summer of 2018. 

Knight has remained in clearer view of the scene, with his signature all-caps tweets taking fans along for the ride during his move from Houston to Los Angeles, and certain keen-eyed (also read as: intrusive) fans filled in the blanks with information regarding a particularly nasty breakup. These two themes – time and privacy – are at the front of Fandom’s glittery, candy-coated swings between euphoria and despair. 

In Fandom, Knight struggles with the stardom Entertainment propelled him and his bandmates into, trying to find a balance between who he wants to be and who everyone else (in particular the Waterparks ‘fandom’) see him as – leading to a very aptly named record and back-to-back explorations of Knight’s feelings of inadequacy and the need to be over-cautious with everything he says and does (“Watch What Happens Next”) and his feelings of being exploited and over-exposed (“Dream Boy”). 

Not every track on Fandom is a critique of the fandom culture that pervades every corner of the internet – the aforementioned breakup wormed its way into a number of tracks, even serving as the subject matter for the record’s lead single, “Turbulent.” This blend of the turbulence (pun incredibly intended) in Knight’s personal and private life present on Fandom creates a constant back-and-forth between those personal and private highs and lows (perhaps availably most bluntly in “I Miss Having Sex But At Least I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore”) that turns the record into a whirlwind time capsule of the last year-and-a-few-months of Knight’s life. 

Despite Fandom being (lyrically) Waterparks’ bleakest yet, Knight’s clever wordplay and prose are present and in high supply throughout the record. Knight weaves together couplets that sound like they were written to be tattooed in one song (“I said ‘I love you to death’/ So I must be dead”) and plays with the English language like his beloved PRS guitars in the next (“But now you got your gloves/ And now you boxed me out/ I’m out the ring/ But the only ring I want/ Is the ring around your finger/ But your middle one’s up”). His claim of being “Pete Wentz and Patrick [Stump] combined” (“Turbulent”) is bold indeed, but Knight’s cool confidence and skill to back it up make it closer to being factual than egotistical. 

The talents of Knight’s bandmates shouldn’t be overlooked – and given their presence on this record, that would be a pretty hard thing to do in the first place. Wigington’s sickeningly sweet licks and riffs – his parts on “Easy To Hate” come to mind as being particularly infectious – paint whorls of bright color over the (mostly “Telephone” stands as an exception) moody blues of Knight’s lyrics. Wood is at the top of his game, laying down track after track that could get the smallest house show and the biggest arena jumping along and coming to a peak in the incredible racing heartbeat of a pulse he plays underneath “Turbulent.” Together, Knight, Wigington and Wood have a whip-smart understanding of their strengths as a unit, able to infuse depth and emotion into the record’s blend of high-octane energy and somber introspection – and also keep the listener around for another round of Fandom by having the last track “I Felt Younger When We Met” tick by seamlessly back around to the opening track “Cherry Red.” They’ve spent their time figuring out what they want to say, and they’ll keep you around for as many times as it takes for you to really listen.  

In the end, it all comes back to time on Fandom. Time spent in love and time spent out; time spent healing and time spent relapsing. Time spent in public and time spent in private, and what that becomes when the line between the two are blurred with fame and exposure. Fandom is a deeply personal record Waterparks have chosen to make public, and the acknowledgement of that paradoxical nature throughout the record makes Fandom a piece of art that becomes more and more rewarding of an experience on each subsequent listen.

Record For Fans Of: Fall Out Boy, All Time Low

Spin This Track: “War Crimes”

Track list:

  1. Cherry Red
  2. Watch What Happens Next
  3. Dream Boy
  4. Easy to Hate
  5. High Definition
  6. Telephone
  7. Group Chat
  8. Turbulent
  9. Never Bloom Again
  10. I Miss having Sex But At Least I Don’t Want To Die Anymore
  11. War Crimes
  12. [Reboot]
  13. Worst
  14. Zone Out
  15. I Felt Younger When We Met

Follow writer Hannah Kay on Twitter @deadgodspeed

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