WSTR have been polarizing figures in the UK pop punk scene since day one. Whether they were dealing with slander comparing them to Neck Deep (is that such a bad thing?) or having their professional attitude questioned, it’s been something of an uphill battle. That said, the boys did shoot to popularity at a rapid pace with their debut EP SKRWD being lauded as a straightforward, hard hitting pop punk treat. Now they’re about to bounce back with debut full length Red, Green or Inbetween – have they managed to produce another memorable record? Well, kind of.
Opening track and latest single Featherweight introduces itself with a distorted riff and a small drum flair. From the beginning, it’s not far from the WSTR sound we’ve become familiar with, and structurally there’s not much ground being broken. One of the first lyrics of the track, “We’re fucking great at being basic” regrettably hangs over Red, Green or Inbetween; whilst there’s very little wrong here, there’s nothing exceptionally impressive either.
Footprints rolls in with a simple yet effective riff before vocalist Sammy Clifford comes in with suitably angst-driven and angry lyrics. Footprints boasts a memorable chorus and a throwaway reference to Harry Potter, which is a nice nod. Cue some coughing and a phlegm-ridden spit (was that really necessary?), Gobshite is in full flow. This is a short, fast track acting as a middle-finger to the aforementioned naysayers of WSTR. It’s a relevant sentiment, though it’s certainly dispensable in terms of warranting it’s own song.
Lonely Smiles! This is WSTR at full pace, and the undeniably highlight track of the album. Lonely Smiles was the premiere single for the album for good reason. It’s lighthearted, catchy and well paced. Mixing current pop punk style with some nostalgic 2000’s licks, WSTR have nailed this song. It would’ve been exciting to hear more of this quality in the album.
Nail The Casket (Thanks For Nothing) returns to the style of Featherweight, leaving a slightly bitter taste to accompany a track with few stand-out elements. WSTR demonstrate a good sense of pace as the song strips back somewhat to allow Sammy the focus for a lyrical section. Eastbound & Down opens with much cleaner vocal section, which is audibly more proficient than the style the band usually opt for, leaving the listener to wonder why this kind of vocalization isn’t the standard for WSTR.
The second half of the album runs perilously close to falling into a monotonous rut. From King’s Cup through to Punchline, there’s little to differentiate the songs. King’s Cup itself had great potential as an anecdote from Sammy Clifford about a tour accident but it doesn’t quite hit as hard as it deserves. The Last Ride opens with a higher guitar section but soon drops into the classic WSTR formula.
Hightail and Penultimate rush at breakneck pace towards to end of the album with Sammy spitting vocals as fast as they come. Repetitive structure is an unavoidable flaw in this album. The same chorus placement, stripped back section, pause, drop back into full pace that haunt many songs on Red, Green or Inbetween could’ve been changed up to keep the album feeling fresh.
Punchline begins in acoustic fashion, which is a welcome change. Before long, however, we’re launched back into the action. There is a good sense of rhythm to the song, and it works well to finish album. It’s a shame that Red, Green or Inbetween feels somewhat front-loaded with the best it has to offer.
Red, Green, or Inbetween is unlikely to change the minds of those who have disregarded WSTR in the past. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be a massive disappointment to fans of the band. The album would certainly have benefited from a sense of progression from the band; only a few tracks truly improve on the formula WSTR demonstrated on SKRWD. The album, much like it’s title, is neither absolutely red nor green. It lies somewhere in between the extremes as a relatively uninspiring, yet not utterly unsatisfactory record.