Matt Blankenship Jr. and his band The Sometimes Island have made themselves known in the Los Angeles music scene and beyond with their infectious brand of synth-based indie pop. Taking the sounds of 80’s pop and reimagining them in the context of a millennial dance rock group. Buzznet proclaimed their 2017 EP ‘Bad People’ the future of synthpop. They established and deepened their synthpop credentials even more with songs like “Phantom Limb” and “Succulent”. Their new single, “Fighting For” exists in an alternate musical universe.
“Fighting For” still has the catchy synth lines that we’ve come to know and love from Matt and crew, including an electric piano/chime rhythm that lays behind the track mostly but sticks out just enough to pique one’s interest in the right spots. But this song is without a doubt a guitar driven track. If “Phantom Limb” is Gary Numan then “Fighting For” is Rick Springfield. They are tangentially related but draw on very different musical lineages. “Fighting For” finds The Sometimes Island stretching out and relaxing a little more than we’ve seen in some of their other recent releases. The track follows its own path and it’s not always the one that the listener expects.
Blankenship Jr. sings in a lower part of his register than we have grown accustomed to in the verse before letting his voice take flight at the choruses. Lyrically the track draws upon the images of a millennial childhood, “…I can’t feel much at all, let’s hang out at the mall…”, is about as representative of a current 30-somethings pubescent life as it gets. “All our memories, all our friends, all our secrets are here again…” brings to mind the realities of coming of age during the dawn of the social media era.
Structurally the song is distinct in that it doesn’t follow a sort of typical verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge – chorus pattern. “Fighting For” only has one verse to speak of and it opens the song. Cheeky lyrics, a noodly guitar line and a smooth rhythm section drive into the open space of the pre-chorus which in turn lifts into the euphoric and searching chorus. The guitar solo in the bridge section begins in a subdued manner with a fairly transparent overdrive that adds some texture but stays crouched and ready to pounce. The second half of the solo displays the raunchy, gaudy, self-assured swagger of the late 70’s/early 80’s guitar gods. With plenty of overdrive and enough squeals to make Robbie Robertson swoon, the tone and line of the second section of the solo stand apart from the rest of the track and hold us on the edge of our seats before releasing us back into the “windows down on the highway” chorus feels.
The Sometimes Island have done plenty to establish themselves as a band that are willing and able to provide the listening public with the dance tracks that they need and want. And although “Fighting For” reaches that end goal via roads not often travelled by this band, it reaches the goal nonetheless, and in a fresh and creative way. As the opening and closing lines of “Fighting For” state, “…here we are again”.