“Live fast and die fun. I grew up way too young”
All killer, no filler. That’s probably what Travis Mills and Nick Gross—the two guys who make up pop-punk duo girlfriends—had in mind when they hit the studio to make their second full-length. The result, (e)motion sickness, is a tried and true follow-up in every sense of the term.
Released back in 2020, girlfriends’ self-titled debut captured an early 00s pop-punk essence with a new age personality, finding success with a “go out and do all the things” kinda record that was put out during a time when we were most certainly not going out and doing all the things. It also had an exclamation point stamped on it by none other than multi-platinum producer John Feldmann. Did his production & co-writing expertise play a role in the record’s quality? Totally. But Feldmann can only take a record so far, girlfriends has to do some of the heavy lifting, too. That’s why on (e)motion sickness, Feldmann’s influence is strong but never overbearing. The shiny production lets Mills’ made-for-pop-punk pipes pierce through and prosper. It’s almost like girlfriends hit the reset button and went, “Remember our record you weren’t able to party to? We’re just gonna do it all over again.”
That they did. (e)motion sickness is loud, bratty, and a force to be reckoned with—as long as you don’t pay attention to the lyrics. Everyone’s pretty much had it with lines about L.A., but these songs can make a lasting impression without worrying all too much about what is being said, even though some lyrics shine brighter than others. “Toothbrush” kicks off the record with a familiar yet inviting tone, re-introducing listeners to the hooks they’ve grown accustomed to in this genre, foreshadowing what to expect going forward. But it’s not always the same song and dance. “Told You So” is an absolute masterclass in how to write a chorus, while “High Again” puts an emphasis more on pop than punk.
The record has some surprises, too. While their last LP had guests from Travis Barker to The Used’s Bert McCracken, girlfriends hit a drive deep to left-field by enlisting superstar violinist Lindsey Stirling on “Maniac”, taking the track to another level with her signature sound that you just know it’s her when you hear it. Additional tracks like “Break Me” and “Therapist” slow down the tempo but, no worries, they ultimately blend in effortlessly with what the band sets out to do.
And that’s more or less what’s so appealing about (e)motion sickness—everything just works. Though 14 songs in length, you appreciate the longer-than-usual track list for a record of this variety; it’s got the quality to keep up, all without having to rely on a Machine Gun Kelly-esque feature or the like. girlfriends didn’t necessarily evolve on album number two, but they showed how much they could improve in just a few short years by sticking to what they know. Whatever comes next should be even better.
Stream it, Buy it, Skip it?: You’ll want to stream it and buy it. As long as it’s in your library, you won’t go wrong here.