Rating – 4.5/5
After Hours’ is the debut LP from Jersey pop-punk outfit Wishful Thinking; a follow up to the 2016 EP ‘We’re Not Alone’ previously reviewed on Faultline. That EP was a good showcase of the band’s sound, a taster of what they could be capable of on a full-length record; so how does ‘After Hours’ stand up as a longer piece of work?
Overall the record has a distinctly pop-punk flavor but with some clear influences from other genres poking through; whether it’s the garage rock buzz on ‘Constant High’ or the reverb jangle pop-inspired ‘Preoccupied’ the album offers some nice variety and distinction to remain interesting throughout.
Thematically the album seems to cover the varying stages of a relationship that inevitably turns sour; the initial thrill, the decline, and finally the sombre reflection. Pretty typical pop-punk fare, but it’s nice to see the album as a cohesive whole, it tells a story in a condensed package.
The title track ‘After Hours’ opens the album; a nice mid-tempo offering with a fuzzy guitar riff. It’s an interesting choice to open with; it’s not a high energy offering to set the tone for the rest of the record; rather those tracks come later. It’s a real tone-setter for the record, letting us know to expect a more mature, considered approach. The track ends with a frenetic drum solo that leads onto ‘Constant High’, ‘No Doubt’, and ‘Call It Quits’ all of which are more uptempo offerings.
One of the standout values on the record is the care and effort that has been put into the production overall; the sound of the album is excellent and the listening experience at times is pure joy. It’s easy on the ears, the songs don’t require a lot of thought to initially get into which of course is typical of the pop-punk genre but don’t let it fool you there is a complexity that lies just beneath.
The instrumentation and arrangement are strong across the album, and certainly on the final three tracks showcase a fantastic understanding of how to build a song from the ground up. There is a complex, layered approach to the writing and clearly to the mixing because with repeated listening new ideas and motifs jump out. On the surface, the production provides an “easy” listening experience, but if you’re willing to dive deeper then there are some really fantastic ideas waiting to be unpacked.
There are certainly standout tracks, most notably ‘Day After Day’; there is absolutely zero criticism to be given because this track is as close to perfect as you could want from this genre. It’s a clear favorite that combines some smart synth work, crunchy guitars, and superbly infectious melodic work in the vocals and as well in the other instrumentation. I’d put this track up against pretty much any other banger from the “famous” or “established” pop-punk contemporaries of Wishful Thinking.
The final track ‘Better Days’ is an introspective offering that rounds off the album really nicely; a wistful reflection that ties together the themes and storytelling on the record but also offers a satisfying conclusion musically. A more modest, downbeat offering that winds down from some of the previous higher energy tracks.
Wishful Thinking have done just a really excellent job in putting this record together; the songwriting, instrumentation, and production make this album a legitimate contender in the pop-punk world. Whilst the heavyweights are declining or making the same old records, the new blood is coming through and demonstrating that actually, they’re just as good or better with what they can offer. ‘After Hours’ is a cohesive and interesting album, both lyrically and melodically, with some standout tracks (as previously mentioned); stream this when it becomes available on the 22nd September, you won’t be disappointed.
Review by Theo Wildgoose