To say I’m not 5 Seconds of Summer’s target audience is an understatement. For starters, I’m a good decade older than the majority of the band’s fan base, and, given the ecstatic screams captured on 5SOS, their first live album, I simply don’t have the excitable temperament to ever be a shrieking, obsessive admirer.
But as ready as I was to be befuddled by the album, I soon found myself genuinely enjoying it. The alternative rock snob sneer that formed on my face when the high energy, Charlie sheen referencing 18 began the proceedings was transformed into one of respectful awe even before the song was finished. 5SOS might not have been designed with me in mind, but that didn’t stop me enjoying it one iota.
There are no surprises on 5SOS – no Jimi Hendrix style freakouts; no drunken onstage arguments; and lead singer Luke Hemmings’ stage banter is mainly comprised of clichés like ‘ LA, make some noise!’ –but who says there needed to be? The album perfectly captures the obvious enthusiasm and energy of a group of young men having a very good time.
Like a good gig, a good live album must flow well, and the decision to follow 18 with the crowd-pleasing anthems Out of My Limit and Disconnected is a solid one. The energy deliberately dips for Amnesia – the track begins with a shred or two of banter, allowing bassist Callum Hood to break a few tweeny hearts before launching into a ballad obviously designed for mixtapes (or whatever the modern equivalent is) swapped between young lovers .
Beside You begins with some impressive – and unexpectedly complex – musicianship, and Everything I Didn’t Say ticks off the pop rock clichés in a way that feels satisfying rather than predictable. Similarly, Taking The Long Way Home is polished without being totally reductive – the song’s driving beat works well, and from the ecstatic reaction of the crowd, its slower moments are timed perfectly for a heartfelt audience sing-along.
The only real misstep of the record came for me when Hemmings asked the audience if anybody knew the band Green Day – the question brought me out in a cold sweat- and as enthusiastic as the ensuing American Idiot cover may have been, you can’t make gold from fecal matter, however hard you try. Thankfully, a cover of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream gets things back on track, and the energy of the band’s own Good Girls works well, followed by an impressive rendition of The Romantic’s What I Like About You.
You’d be foolish not to expect that the band’s hit single She Looks So Perfect would pop up sooner or later, and the decision to include it as the penultimate track is a nice tease, particularly as the band cheekily introduce it as a cover of AQUA’s Barbie Girl. As overplayed as the song might have been on commercial radio, the live recording is a good reminder that the song is about as good as pop of this sort gets – it’s ecstatic, enthusiastic stuff. A second version of What I Like About You closes the proceedings: it’s a studio mix that works as well (if not better) than the frenetic live version.
Although I might not quite be ready to go out and buy myself a 5 Seconds of Summer hoodie – at least not one I’d be willing to wear in public – 5SOS is a gorgeously entertaining record, not only a perfectly respectable alternative to forking out the money for an expensive concert ticket, but a worthy experience in and of itself.