2016’s Chemical Miracle saw Newcastle’s Trophy Eyes expand upon the sonic palate of their superb 2013 debut Mend, Move On, wrapping frontman John Floreani’s introspective lyrics and desperate vocal delivery in lush melodic structures. The result was a collection of songs as suited to being sung by thousands of adoring fans at Unify as they were soundtracking a late night existential crisis.
Chemical Miracle opened up the world’s ears to Trophy Eyes, earning the band the type of opportunities most bands can only dream about while establishing Floreani as a defacto counsellor for the pop-punk scene. Chemical Miracle also appears to have provided the band with the catharsis and clarity of purpose they had been searching for, as on third record The American Dream Trophy Eyes make a wild turn for the hopeful, delivering an uplifting record with stadium-sized ambitions.
Pop-tastic opener ‘Autumn’ serves as the mission statement for The American Dream with shimmering guitars and layered instrumentation providing an anthemic soundscape over which Floreani sings an infectious and self-referential refrain (“Don’t let those sad songs rot your brain”).
The appropriately titled ‘Something Bigger’ follows, building on the opener’s pop-nous in perfect modern rock radio fashion by jumping straight into an ear worm of a chorus – “It don’t make much sense right now, but it’ll all come together when the lights go out” – that’s guaranteed to be sung back at them for years to come. As atmospheric guitars and pounding rhythms anchor the type of song that Jared Leto dreams about being able to write, it becomes clear that we are not in Newcastle anymore, producer Shane Edwards helping the band sound bigger than Texas.
‘Friday Forever’ and ‘More Like You’ continue the upbeat vibe with unashamedly danceable rhythms of the former and the (whisper it) U2-esque arrangements of the latter firmly establishing Trophy Eyes’ new sound, while doubling down on the lyrical narrative of self-love and joyous self-discovery that the band foreshadowed on triple j favourite and lead-single ‘You Can Count On Me’.
Proceeded here by the reflective ‘Cotton Candy Sky’ a track that features Floreani displaying impressive control of the hitherto seldom used lower end of his range, ‘You Can Count On Me’ is a bonafide banger that overcomes a rare clunky lyric or two with the sheer scope of its epicness. The fact it’s not even close to being the best song on The American Dream speaks volumes of the band’s willingness to push themselves to evolve.
Nowhere is this sonic growth more apparent than on ‘Tip Toe’ and ‘I Can Feel It Calling’, two tracks that feature string accompaniment provided by none other than freaking Chris Craker (who worked with Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack to Interstellar). ‘Tip Toe’ is a dreamy acoustic number that sees Floreani recall the heartbreaking inner-monologue of the “absent” party of a long-distance relationship while showing off a degree of vocal dexterity that will surprise many. ‘I Can Feel It Calling’ is a six and a half minute slow-burner that is light years from anything Trophy Eyes have ever written before.
Elsewhere ‘Broken’ and ‘Miming The Choir’ display a superb melding of the band’s signature and new sounds while ‘Lavender Boy’ is a sunny pop-punk jam that comes as close to a standard Trophy Eyes song as anything on this record (but even it features xylophone!)
Much has been made of modern pop-punk bands’ tendency to recycle ideas in order to cater to a ready-made audience. To their credit, Trophy Eyes have taken an almighty career risk by doing the exact opposite, taking every chance to back themselves and the scope of their vision. For a band whose grasp of the awkward dance between confusion and sadness had been their meal ticket, embracing positivity could’ve be an oddly dangerous thing, but they’ve absolutely nailed it.
Trophy Eyes are no longer a pop-punk act, if they ever even were. They are something bigger, braver and rarer than that. They are Trophy Eyes and they are living The American Dream.