Love them or loathe them, Busted held a quintessential place in the music scene in the early 00’s, devouring the charts with a pop-punk charm reminiscent of their American cousins Blink-182 and Sum 41. Fast-forward 11 years after a catastrophic breakup, the rise of post-hardcore outfit Fightstar and various solo and side projects (including the aptly named McBusted), and the trio return with their long-awaited third album entitled ‘Night Driver’.
Given the 13 year gap between Busted’s second album ‘A Present for Everyone’ and their new release, fans can only expect the band to sound a tad different, rather than harking back to the sugar-coated pop-rock of days long gone. Well, forget minor differences, as on ‘Night Driver’ Busted swap out the guitars and cheesy choruses for smooth grooves, ambient synths and polished vocals, that the likes of Daft Punk and Kavinsky would be green-eyed over.
The album begins with ‘Coming Home’, an anthem for the fans that have stood by and remained loyal to the band from day one. Lead vocalist Charlie Simpson proudly sings “I miss my family” as synths echo and guitars thrash to a heroic finale. Busted are back yes, but something’s definitely changed. As well as maturing as individuals, the band members have grown as artists and this becomes immediately clear; 2016 Busted are far from the schoolboys we had on our televisions in 2003. ‘Night Driver’, the title track is about as smooth as any title track could be, bopping along with infectious synths and a looped drumbeat. One thing becomes clear though almost instantly, and that is Simpson, having been so long absent on the scene, is pioneering the band’s new sound and driving it throughout the record. This omnipresence continues on ‘New York’ where Simpson’s roaring vocals (a leaf straight out of Fightstar’s book) carry the song to glorious heights, as the band wave goodbye to a crumbling relationship. One cannot help thinking that this song is actually bidding farewell to the fractured Busted we were left with in the mid-noughties. Having patched things up in America last year and beginning to demo tracks for ‘Night Driver’ the song could not be more appropriately titled and written.
‘Thinking of You’, recently performed on Children in Need, and potentially the band’s new single is the perfect pop song of the album. Perfectly balanced vocally between the three, the song flows beautifully with a crunchy guitar solo to tip things off. Strip away the electronics and this track is probably the closest thing to a typical Busted track, both in spirit and delivery on the album. This energy continues on ‘One of a Kind’ which was released in the week leading up to the album’s release. This track, alongside ‘On What You’re On’ signifies the band as leaning more towards an 80’s electronic sound nowadays than the 90’s pop-punk feel that encompassed their first two releases. With the rise and prevalence of electronic production in many new wave bands such as The 1975, Two Door Cinema Club and Bastille, the boys could not have picked a more current sound to delve into. Combining this new style with what made Busted such a lovable group when they began is the perfect formula of ‘Night Driver’, which jumps in leaps and bounds towards something rather novel.
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Alongside the groovy pop gems of ‘Night Driver’ are a few slow burners, which reminds us only more of Busted’s career in their earlier days. ‘Easy’ glides heartbreakingly towards a chorus which runs, “I wish it were, a little more easy, but you’re hard to get, when all you do is tease me“. Similar to the moodiness and lovesick attitude displayed on old tracks such as ‘Who’s David’ and ‘Meet You There’, it’s clear the band still possess the ability to make us feel like love-lost teenagers pining for the one that got away.
The album closer ‘Those Days Are Gone’ definitively embodies the message of ‘Night Driver’. That message is bidding farewell to the grudges and difficulties that the band held and suffered after their breakup, whilst simultaneously holding onto what crafted their legacy in the first place. ‘Night Driver’ overall demonstrates the magic created between Simpson, Bourne and Willis when they are put in a room together and work towards the same end. Albeit, fans may argue (as previously mentioned) against Simpson’s vocal dominance on the album tracks, but his return was both long awaited and warmly met so what do you expect? Despite this, the pivotal points of ‘Night Driver’ are not individual in nature, but the moments where Busted display exactly who they are: three individuals with a zealous desire to make mesmerising pop music.
‘Night Driver’ is out now via East West Records.