In these dark and uncertain times, we are all in need of a little hope and positivity. I was keen to listen to a new Grouplove album embodying the ethos of “aiming to fight hopelessness”, not only for the thematic bent, but because Grouplove were one of my favourite bands at sixteen. I grew up knowing how fun and kooky their music could be: staying positive and having fun was the whole point. I wanted to like this record, but unfortunately it’s hard to see the positivity and fun contained within it when each song blends into one the next. It’s a rainbow-coloured soup that tastes almost like nothing.
Sadly, when their fans needed it most, Grouplove’s fizzing pop charm is nowhere to be seen. The record is swamped with bland production choices that seem to lack any real innovation. While opening track ‘Deleter’ seems promising with its pleasant indie rock guitars, things go downhill quickly and you realise that every track feels the same.
‘Deleter’ is certainly a fun and catchy but inoffensive track, but none of the album’s other ten songs are memorable or interesting enough to stand out from each other, despite upbeat melodies and catchy instrumentals throughout. As Healer and its mundane sense of fun progress, it is clear that the positivity band were aiming for has, instead, resulted in a tediously tame and mostly by-the numbers effort.
I should mention the album’s most unique track in terms of production, ‘Expectations’, as a standout for all the wrong reasons. While it is commendable that the band have tried to do something different, the squeaky synthetic sounds grate and irritate to the point where the song becomes a chore to listen to.
While Grouplove were never really known for their boundary or genre pushing music, one thing they could be applauded for was the character and passion in their work. I cannot say the latter is completely gone, but what remains of it is definitely not enough to carry this album; in fact, at times the band seems almost too passionate, with Hannah’s vocals straining on tracks like ‘Ahead of Myself’.
It must be said that there is nothing offensively bad about Healer – other than ‘Expectations’ and the unfortunate verses of ‘Ahead of Myself’. The album is perfectly listenable and okay. Sadly, there is just not much that is particularly good about it, either. Healer is simply a record that is disappointingly lacking. But hey, if there’s one positive, at least the band sounded like they had fun making it.
Words by Emma Reilly