Simple Creatures is the pop-punk duo fans didn’t expect but secretly hoped for, and the band’s debut EP has arrived. consisting of All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth and Blink-182‘s Mark Hoppus, the six-song Strange Love EP was released on Friday and successfully makes the phrase “trash pop” make sense.
The two had been making music together while their bands were between albums long before announcing their side project on Twitter back in January. The news of their collaboration was even more exciting for fans knowing All Time Low originally started as a Blink 182 cover band, sparking obvious father-son jokes regarding Hoppus and Gaskarth. The band made their introduction with the release of their first single, “Drug,” and it wasn’t long before Strange Love was announced.
Side projects are always interesting. Both bands have their established sound but Strange Love is an album that isn’t quite All Time Low or quite Blink-182. The music they created for Simple Creatures has its own identity, while even the most pop-punk driven songs on the EP wouldn’t fit on a Blink-182 or All Time Low Album.
Strange Love Opens with “Drug,” a track that worked as a preview of the sound Simple Creatures wanted to develop, sticking to their early pop-punk roots with a modern electric twist.
The track starts with an unexpected guitar riff before jumping into a catchy chorus that reveals the true meaning of the single, the anthem of being with someone who you know is bad for you, but you can’t shake them regardless. The “Drug” outro fades to Gaskarth’s voice getting more distorted, almost robotic. The same electronic influence carried to “Strange Love,” where there’s a more obvious fusion of pop-punk and electronic music through the use of synth beats and distortion.
The EP slows down and takes a more serious mood with “How To Live.” From the name Strange Love to the messages in the songs, the EP’s theme speaks to love, mainly focusing on its rough patches. “How To Live” goes into the good and bad of a relationship and figuring out if the good outweighs the bad. Opposite to “Drug,” this track is more about both people in the relationship being bad for each other but “not knowing when to quit.” The mood shift in between this track and “Strange Love” sounds intentional, with the realization discovered throughout the track before transitioning to the upbeat “Adrenaline.”
In all the tracks there’s a mesh of different genres with the pop punk influence and “Adrenaline” is not an exception. Losing the electronic sound, this track picks up guitar hooks influenced by late 1970’s rock bands like Joy Division and The Cure while maintaining a catchy pop infused chorus. The following track, “Ether,” is the second slower track on the LP and brings the electronic beat back through electronic drums. Compared to the other tracks, “Ether” goes full force into the new synth pop sound Simple Creatures was experimenting with.
The set closes with “Lucy,” another nod to the blend of rock and synth, but what makes this song catchy is the melodies shared between Mark and Alex along with the spoken parts pre-chorus.
Side projects can be difficult to pull off, especially when involving musicians from huge bands who have been around for a while and already have their sounds and audiences established. The new sounds explored on Strange Love helps separates both Hoppus and Gaskarth from their bands just enough that Simple Creatures can be enjoyed as an independent band.
This new direction works for them, it’ll be interesting to see where Simple Creatures goes from here.