Review: Mom Jeans’ Puppy Love proves they’re the quintessential emo band, for better or for worse
If you have a friend who hates emo music, odds are that at one point they’ve mockingly imitated an emo singer for you. That whiny, nasally impression is spot on when it comes to Eric Butler’s vocal stylings. In fact, Mom Jeans. seems to have become a paradigmatic example for the pop-infused branch of the emo revival. The combination of Butler’s vocals, hooky guitars, driving, high-energy drums, joke titles, and lyrics awash in self-pity are so indicative of the genre that it’s easy to mistake the band for a parody.
It’s not hard to see that the band themselves are in on the joke. Two years removed from their debut that brought us track titles like “Scott Pilgrim V. My Gpa” and “Edward 40hands,” Puppy Love brings gems like “Jon bong Jovi” and “PICKLE BART.” I don’t mean for my approach to Mom Jeans. to sound overly critical or negative, because they know exactly what they’re doing. Just like how a summer blockbuster can satisfy the itch for some mindless fun, Puppy Love is a jamming summer album, light on deep revelations, but heavy on infectious melodies and rhythms.
As is currently in vogue, the up-tempo cheery tracks belie the less-cheery lyrical content. Butler sings of loneliness, self-loathing, not feeling like enough, struggling to move on, etc. For an album entitled Puppy Love, the emotions Butler sings about are anything but innocent. Many of his songs are marred by an unhealthy streak of self-dependency, unable to let go of past relationships and continuing to define himself based off of them.
When it comes to Mom Jeans., I always struggle with their lyrics, and this album was no exception. To me (and perhaps by design) Butler’s lyrics often come off as juvenile. While some may appreciate his simple and uncomplicated honesty, I find it alienating. A lot of lines lack sophistication, often turning to lazy rhyme patterns. An example of all my above critiques: “The only two things I really can talk to / Are my PlayStation and my dog / Tried eating vegan but I'm a fraud / I don't know why I'm surprised it's not odd.” In one song, he sings about eating Cheetos and drinking chocolate milk, in another, he proclaims that he won’t survive the night if a significant other “can’t find the time to be nice to [him].” While a lot of the feelings he’s singing about are relatable, I still felt the urge (as a 23-year-old) to tell him to grow up. There’s a little too much wallowing in self-pity for my liking, especially when other emo bands have found ways to approach these themes in more original, insightful ways.
Overall however, this album is still a clear step forward from their debut album, Best Buds. It retains the band’s charm/identity and its vaguely nostalgic appeal, while offering more interesting song arrangements, more intricate guitar parts, and more hooks. It hits the pleasure spot, getting your head nodding along on the first playthrough. As time passes, I think this album will grow on fans and they’ll view it more favorably than the band’s debut.
Fans of the genre will like it because it ticks off all the boxes… or dislike it for its derivative qualities. While a fun summer album, its strict adherence to the genre conventions renders it ultimately inconsequential. It doesn’t have much to say, and the lack of depth and complexity will keep it from resonating with audiences and influencing the community in a meaningful way. Much like puppy love, this album is a shallow outing, whose appeal will wane as quickly as it grew.
Top Tracks: sponsor me tape, season 9 ep 2-3
For Fans of: Retirement Party, Remo Drive, an emo album that does everything you’d expect
Pros: Marked improvement from Best Buds, strong arrangements, very listenable
Cons: Overly whiny vocals/lyrics, takes no chances, a predictable offering