Returning to our ears after a few near traumatic years, Grouplove are back in 2020 with a revitalised sound and lust for music. Always capable of writing a bonafide pop song in the past, the Californian five-piece are back with Healer, an album as up and down as a pushup.
Since forming in 2009, there’s no denying the band have released some super summery and incredibly catchy music. From the wall-to-wall hits on their Never Trust a Happy Song debut, to their sonic follow up Spreading Rumours, the most defining aspect of what made Grouplove Grouplove was their innate ability to write a very upbeat and glorious track with bulletproof sentiment and an ongoing ability for it to get stuck in your head. Here on Healer, it appears as though the band have forgotten how to do so.
Healer definitely has some moments that you’ll continually come back to time and time again. Lead single “Deleter”, a song about removing people from your life who are constantly negative and seeking ways to bring others down, is bound to become a live staple and one both new and old fans will find common ground on. From its twang driven guitar hooks, to its festival ready chorus, “Deleter” is bound to have the crowd eating out of their hands.
There’s a level of familiarity on “Inside Out” that draws the listener in throughout its three and half minute run. The continued chant of the chorus is guaranteed to get stuck in your head as you drive to work (as it did to me). The shared lead vocals thing is something that plays to the strengths of Grouplove. With Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi sharing vocal duties, the band have always been able to shape a live set by swapping each voice in and out to set the mood of the evening. In one instance on Healer, Hannah takes the lead on the Mediterranean “Expectations”, as the ongoing bongo back-beat proves a solid source of percussion.
“The Great Unknown” is by no means ground-breaking with its lyrics or music, but it is a safe pop song, while the synth-driven “Youth” invokes that weird period in time during the 2010’s where every third band tried to pretend they were straight out of the 80’s. It’s got a catchy hook for sure, but probably won’t be a song that people will be waiting to hear live.
Thankfully, there are a few moments in the closing half of Healer that save face. “Hail To The Queen” has a cheeky self-respect going for its four-minute run. It’s got a bass line that will stick with you during the entire song, while the chorus has that classic Grouplove sound that makes you wonder where it’s been for the rest of the album. A clear stand out on the album, “Hail To The Queen” is sure to become a fan favourite. “Burial” has some tender moments in its opening half, before going supersonic over the closing 75 seconds to give it that hit of spice that otherwise went missing on the majority of the album.
Healer is by no means a bad album, I just know the band is capable of better. There have definitely been a few roadblocks in the way between Healer and their previous album (2016’s Big Mess), but in the scheme of things, Grouplove are a band that will always be remembered for having two stellar first albums before slowly withering away. It’s a sad thing to say, I know, and as a long time fan, one I don’t really like admitting. Healer shows signs of being great, but never really comes close to getting there.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Healer is out Friday 13 March, 2020. Grouplove will be in the country touring for Splendour In The Grass.