Odds are that if you’re reading this, the name Stand Atlantic isn’t one that’s unfamiliar for you. After their release of their world-dominating debut album Skinny Dipping in 2018, the four-piece began to conquer the pop-punk world both globally and internationally, becoming one of Australia’s most popular exports in recent times. Two years on, the outfit are gearing up to release their sophomore LP in Pink Elephant – a bold step in a new direction.
I’ll be the first to admit that I had my own reservations about Pink Elephant prior to listening. The singles seemed all over the place, with the only common thread being that the Stand Atlantic in front of us was a very different outfit that we had grown accustomed to in recent years. Showcasing different influences and songwriting styles, the singles felt detached to one another with each representing a facet of the band’s new found character, yet after listening to the album it feels entirely intentional.
See, the biggest strength of Pink Elephant is in its diversity. Leaping from strength to strength, Stand Atlantic have crammed as much as they possibly could into the album’s eleven tracks. From the angsty punk anthem that is “Hate Me (Sometimes)”, to the bubbly pop-fuelled rollercoaster ride “DWYW” and the piano driven ballad “Drink To Drown”, the band have covered every base, and done it in a way that feels overwhelmingly comfortable and accessible to listeners. Not content with treading water, the band have soared onwards and upwards from their breakout sound to create something undoubtedly special.
Yet despite the drastic expansion of the band’s signature sound, the incorporation of fresh elements doesn’t feel like it’s come at the cost of what popularised the group in the first place. Building on the base of enormous hooks, booming instrumentals, and captivating singalongs, the introduction of enthralling synth and mouth-watering pop-rock has only worked to accentuate the biggest moments of Pink Elephant. Choice cuts “Jurassic Park” and “Eviligo” are powered by bubblegum pop and driven by searing guitar riffs, combining incredibly (and almost impossibly) well with vocalist Bonnie Fraser’s resonant vocals.
Overwhelmingly, Pink Elephant still feels like a pop-punk record at heart. It’s defined by its biggest moments, which often come amidst a fury of boisterous guitar and bass, bouncy drums, and Fraser’s unwavering vocals. Choice cut “Shh!” is characterised by its blisteringly raw energy, while others like “Wavelength” are hard and heavy, like a sonic left hook to those who listen to it. Yet beyond the pop-punk façade, it’s the curveballs the band have thrown that truly make Pink Elephant the most enjoyable Stand Atlantic release yet. Whether it’s the outlandish “Silk & Satin” or the sparkling pop sensibilities on “Blurry”, there is too much on that album that it is impossible to ever get bored of.
Despite the myriad of sonic changes the band have undergone, thematically Pink Elephant feels exactly like a Stand Atlantic record. Typified by a lack of restraint, rampant vigour, and the band’s characteristic energy, the album is inspired by the adventures of Fraser as she comes to terms with all the different ‘pink elephants’ that block her path, one song at a time. At times, songs like “Drink To Drown” and “Blurry” tug at the heartstrings while the band revel in their own vulnerability, discussing the weight of intimate relationships that often act as a source of enormous pain and personal distress. Others discuss the delicate subject of mental health, with “Jurassic Park” an homage to Fraser’s mother, exploring the effect of mental illness on family members and partners. With the deeply moving subject matter in tow, this hasn’t come close to stopping the band from embracing their quirkier side. Whether it’s through employing flippant and irreverent metaphor, or lyrics that just sound weird, Stand Atlantic haven’t shied away from championing their overwhelming oddities and trademark weirdness.
Over time, and more often than not incorrectly, stylistic changes similar to those that Stand Atlantic have undergone have been associated with a drop in quality and a back step in musicianship. In the case of Pink Elephant, the opposite could not be truer: Not only does the album feels entirely genuine, it has seen the band create some of their most interesting and loveable tracks so far. Truly a shedding skin moment, the band have forced themselves to become more vulnerable than ever, and have grown remarkably stronger as a result. While at times the introduction of synth and electronic inclinations feels slightly overdone, the end result of Pink Elephant is Stand Atlantic coming to the table with their strongest, bravest, and most confident release to date.
Pink Elephant releases next week (7th August) via Hopeless Records and can be pre-ordered now: http://smarturl.it/PinkElephant
It’s brave, bold and audacious. Pink Elephant sounds like Stand Atlantic have well and truly put everything on the line. Not content with playing it safe, the band have created an inspired and truly special album, flourishing with incredible choruses, huge instrumentals and gorgeous pop influence. It’s weird as hell, and I love it.
At times, yet rarely, the synth and electronic additions feel a little overwhelming – but only just.