Brisbane band Columbus may be coming at the release of their upcoming album A Hot Take On Heartbreak with some nervousness as to how it’ll be received. Known for hard hitting punk tracks like “Daffodil”, “Raindrop”, and “Downsides Of Being Honest”, the trio of Alex Moses (vocals and guitar), Ben Paynter (bass), and Daniel Seymour (drums), have made it crystal clear that change is on the way for Columbus.
With new singles “Don’t Know How To Act” and “Care At All”, Columbus have softened their punk edges. With the band aiming for more rock than punk, the guys of Columbus have referred to late 90s and early 00s alt-rock bands as their recent musical influences; namely Weezer and All-American Rejects. As a fan of Weezer’s self titled blue album and Pinkerton, I was keen to pick up what Columbus were putting down in A Hot Take On Heartbreak, which releases 25th May via UNFD.
“Don’t Know How To Act” was the first single as well as first introduction to the shift in Columbus’ sound. Instead of powerfully acted scenes or suburban punk thrashes, the music video is a shower singalong with goofiness turned up to the max. Combining a bunch of shower cubical weirdness and honesty about feeling insecure in a new relationship is endearing in its rockin’ angst. The sing-along catchiness of “Don’t Know How To Act”‘s choruses gives the song an collective inspiration for relationship dorks everywhere to unite in awkwardness. While the track could be seen as sudsy sweet or ‘too light’ after gritty tension of Spring Forever, there’s still something genuine underlying.
“Care At All” was the second single from the band. The track’s introduction riff hangs in the air while “ooh ooh ooOooh”s fly by. An uncomfortable and unraveling relationship is shared lyrically, the disconnect detailed in down to earth descriptions. Piano at the choruses and raw guitar has “Care At All” enjoyable, but at this point of the album, I’m not quite sold yet on Columbus’ new angle. The “Why did I have to make you hurt too?” bridge with it’s self-frustration and alarm is helping to soften to this though..
The upbeat track feels emotionally heavy and the density/layers add to the sense of defeat. Columbus’ distinct focus on choruses makes catchiness the flavour of the day.
Moving into the third track “Worn Out This Week”, I can feel myself being won over. More vocal “ooh”s pushes the Weezer factor hard, but the intimate and warm vocals keep it from being at all too much or cheesy at all. The track has the character deflecting attention away from their sadness, refusing attention (you know the mood: “I’m fine, I’m just tired”, when that’s not entirely the truth).
“I’m not crying these aren’t tears on my cheek”
Almost ironic in how upbeat it sounds, the track is endearing/relatable in its ‘don’t mind me while I’m dying on the floor’ refusal to let anyone in. With honesty about being alone, the spaces with just drums and vocals act like a conversational pause as we wait for the openness to happen. It’s a very cool inside perspective of a person who admits they’re not as strong as they might have seemed, even if they don’t necessarily want to let anyone in. I’m loving the chorus after the bridge that builds up into a stronger chorus with even more emphatic denial. This is a great track!
I think “Feelin’ Low” was what erased any remaining hesitations about the new Columbus sound, and I believe this track will now be stuck in my head forever. A Hot Take On Heartbreak seriously needs to come with a warning label by way of its catchiness.
Without any instrumental introduction, we’re confronted with the ‘story’ of “Feelin’ Low” where someone he’s leaned upon for support has bailed. It’s the layered solidness of the chorus and the (odd, yet captivating!) use of “l-l-l-l-l-low”. We’re taken into the raw expression of someone keen to get away from their life currently. Distant layers of guitar feel like something hovering in the background, working really well as a not-very-obvious yet still present looming heaviness.
Guitar squeal hecticness as well as the catchy chorus and vocal focus of this track combined have me hooked. The vocal/lyrical playfulness mixed with the dark content is almost like toying with one’s depression as they drown in a chasm of sound; falling out of reality and into something outside of it. The track has got me by the scruff and I love it.
“Cause I’ve been feeling low, l-l-l-l-l-low oh oh”
I’m instantly in love with the following track “Give Up”, falling for the chord progression and the track’s sweet storytelling and lovesick sadness courtesy of Alex’s voice. From his “I’ll die alone” state of being, he’s sharing with us how life changed for him. With bouncy beats added to the mix, we find how he met someone and everything changed for the better. The dreamy track sees a wounded heart be handed over to another, beautifully expressed with harmonies and a ‘to be continued’ vibing ending.
“I was raising the white flag, and then I met you
And now I know I can’t give up”
The dreaminess is turned up even more in the next track (“Woke Up With A Heart Attack”), which could easily be featured on the soundtrack of a wholesome romantic comedy. With gorgeous clean guitar and honest vocals, we’re told the story of how a guy was gradually moving on from a former lover and picking back up the pieces of his life, yet also missing her like crazy. And then he has a dream “you were lying in my arms, rosy red lips touched my cheek, and I woke up with a heart attack”. Sweet, right?
“Won’t you kiss me again, won’t you kiss me”
Despite the sickly sweet subject matter, Columbus have done it in a genuine-feeling way, keeping it very real with the reminiscing lyrics and matter-of-fact language style. I’m getting very used to expecting the layered vocals/harmonies and anthemic choruses in songs on this album. The EKG sounds are a cute touch. You’ll have to listen to the track to find out if he gets the girl or is just a hopeless romantic.
Columbus seem to have thought about the lovey-dovey nature of their music maybe hitting a peak of being too much and hit us with “Piece Of Shit” at the seventh track. More punk than we’ve heard previously, Alex spews forth honesty about how flawed he is. It’s amusing in a self-deprecating way, where he expects she’s going to ‘dump his arse’.
“I’m a piece of shit, she just doesn’t know it yet”
Captivating lyrically and buoyed along by the impeccably catchy rock, we’re listening to Alex’s honest admissions of how he’s fallen for a girl he adores yet expects it to end because of his aforementioned level of shit-ness. The track shares the relationship’s progress; as he talks about going from just talking with her to going out with her. Stand-outs on “Piece Of Shit” are the harmonies and the blunt realness of the lyrics. The track put a smile on my face the whole time, especially with the chorus use of “shit shit shit!” toward the end of the song. Endearing to the max.
With beefier riffs and traversing into rawer vocal territory, “Cut It Out” explores some darker emotion, as well as wanting to escape from that darkness. Interesting beep accents add to the chorus bigness as the track does a stellar job of sharing discomfort and emotional ‘itchiness’ in thinking and feeling certain things. I’m loving the guitars and bass noisiness of the track as well as a looser feel than earlier tracks, where there’s less pull toward the carefully enunciated storytelling.
“It just hurts too much”
Far from lovey dovey sweetness, “Difficult Conversations” is the funeral of a relationship. With piano adding to guitar and the lyrical reminiscing, he wonders if he fucked it up, knowing they’re going nowhere and having to face the fact. I’m a big fan of the pre-chorus harmonies that build with anticipation the finality that the choruses carry. With ‘Nothing left between you and me’, the track is an honest acknowledgement of this thing between them that has died. It’s beautifully done, seeming both affectionate as well as realistic that it’s over.
At the last track, I wonder for a monent what Columbus’ version of Weezer’s “Only In Dreams” might be. The tender vocals and gentle guitar of “Feel This Way” have this wondering easily fall away with the track holding its own. I’m all-in with the exquisite chord progressions and the words tumbling out of what’s happening to him. This is dreamy as, and easy to have the soft cocoon of young love be billowing around us as he reminisces. The “ooh ooh ooh”s are by now just a given, woven into the fabric of the song along with the piano. The gorgeous piece of music and its dreamy staircase of melody is poking at all sorts of things within me. It’s a perfect ending.
“I hope I didn’t hurt you”
With a sense of an entire relationship experience having just sonically washed over me, the album title feels logical: This literally is A Hot Take On Heartbreak. While Columbus’ sound has changed, it’s clear that the lyrical honesty in storytelling that we heard and loved in tracks like “Downsides Of Being Honest” is still here, even if the cloud of punk intensity has blown sideways.
What’s here now in this album is heartfelt and catchy rock. The dreamy quality attributed to true love as a life goal and rescue takes me back to writing in journals on my bed about boys (and wanting to write to Rivers Cuomo after hearing “Across The Sea”). The admissions of feeling awkward around someone you’re fond of, and the prediction that they’ll discover your flaws and dump you just adds to this picture of new love. On the darker end of the spectrum is the tension in trying to make things work and having to face it when they don’t, as well as acknowledging when things are over. Columbus have done a beautiful job in lending their affectionate vibes to each of these topics, keeping the entire album feeling like a fresh breeze. While there are no technically intricate ‘wow’ tracks, that’s not really what A Hot Take On Heartbreak is about. This collection of songs honours the real-life experience (and emotional consequences) of bonding and breaking, and has the feeling of becoming a well-loved album.
Catchy to the max, with sublime harmonies and feelgood choruses. Endearing stories shared.
There might be fewer opportunities to mosh (but you WILL dance).