Walking in slow steps through dark skies and puddled streets, the scene of Boston Manor’s fictional version of Blackpool, England mysteriously forms as “Welcome to the Neighbourhood” wraps its thick, foggy arms around you. “Welcome to the neighbourhood, if you could leave you would” immediately creates a haunting feeling with droning guitar rhythms, attaching itself to your feet like heavy roots through low background synth. As background screams intensify, the intro track is over as fast as it began and you’re walking Blackpool’s back alleyways. All alone.
Although the introduction track delivers a dark and murky feeling, the record immediately twists upwards with the second track inspired by the Sex Pistol’s political single “God Save The Queen”, “Flowers In Your Dustbin”. It quickly becomes clear that addiction and the downward spirals of serious drug users is the dominant theme of Boston Manor’s sophomore album Welcome to the Neighbourhood via Pure Noise Records, as the screeching guitar leads Henry Cox’s vocals into the album’s leading single “Halo”, about Heroin addiction and finding yourself in a sooty, repeating promise of “a quick fix then I’ll get clean”. This track seems to bring about an idea that each person wears a halo in between their vices, a theme that presents itself in addiction as it destroys the lives of all involved.
The last track released before the record was presented as a whole, “England’s Dreaming” is Boston Manor succumbing to the overcast found in their vision of Blackpool, England. Upon first glance, Blackpool, England looks like a perfect family getaway. The coastal, once-booming city where you can find a ferris wheel on the Irish Sea finds itself poor and heavily deprived since around 1993 and leads BBC’s list of England’s highest heroin death rates. According to Official for National Statistic reported by BBC in April 2018, Blackpool, England sees 14 heroin and/or morphine deaths per 100,000 people and some even twist the name into a dark joke, calling the town “Crackpool” as The Guardian reports the town as England’s “unhealthiest town”. An overly-masculine concept of “If I Can’t Have It No One Can” takes hold of the last half of Welcome to the Neighbourhood, poking the bear on the world’s way of raising men who aspire to be the biggest, the baddest and even worse: always right.
Boston Manor breaks the cast many pop-punk bands fall into as their careers advance. While a number of bands have songs breaking off in different directions, each line of Boston Manor’s Welcome to the Neighborhood is constructed with purpose and intent. Each whine of the electric guitar and enigmatic lyric frames an album that towers over the rest in the genre like the Blackpool Tower looks over England’s unfortunate town.
Boston Manor’s Welcome to the Neighbourhood slowly paints a somber portrait of their hometown of Blackpool, England with one of the most well-crafted records of 2018, creating an intentional aphotic listening experience from start to finish.
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