With their spiky hair, electric guitars, and dewy, lip-ringed smiles, Australia's 5 Seconds of Summer are often dubbed the One Direction of punk-pop. It's an admittedly facile if apt comparison, reinforced by the fact that 5SOS (Five Sauce, as their fans call them) toured with One Direction in 2013. However, even if 5SOS are a punk boy band, that's a minor distinction, and one that's arguably been around since Green Day brought it to inception with 1994's Dookie. It's also a brilliant marketing tool brought to its apotheosis at the dawn of the millennium by blink-182's multi-platinum album Enema of the State. Of course, when blink-182 mugged on a beach as they did in the video for "All the Small Things," it was a satirical goof on the greater TRL teen pop world that the trio found itself implausibly at the epicenter of in 1999. For 5SOS, most of whom were still in diapers when the video premiered, it might as well have been the genesis moment, the birth of a cross-genre aesthetic rife with blink's cheeky punk attitude, but one in which the implied irony is lost, and everything is taken at face value.
16 years after blink-182's breakthrough, 5SOS have taken stock of all the small things with their sophomore album, 2015's Sounds Good Feels Good, a slick, professional production that finds them embracing their punky boy band image with unabashed glee. Recorded in Los Angeles with producer John Feldmann (the Used, All Time Low, Plain White T's), Sounds Good Feels Good also features collaborations with a handful of like-minded if slightly older artists, including Good Charlotte's Benji and Joel Madden, and All Time Low's Alex Gaskarth. Generally speaking, this big brother/little brother vibe works, and cuts like "She's Kinda Hot" and "Permanent Vacation" are upbeat, singalong-ready anthems that sound birthed from the hormonal fantasies of teenage bros who subsist on Mountain Dew and Sour Patch Kids, and the wet dreams of rich, middle-aged record executives. The rest of the album reveals a more earnest inclination, with 5SOS delving into some dancey, 1975-esque post-punk on "Waste the Night," going for orchestral flourishes on the ballad "Invisible," and shading their chunky '90s Radiohead guitars with crooning emo angst on "Airplanes."
That said, one wonders how 5SOS can get away with blatantly lifting the melody of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf," as they do on "Hey Everybody!" The answer is by freely copping to the lift and crediting Duran Duran. In the end, though, perhaps we shouldn't be too critical of the band's unabashed cut-and-paste sound, especially if the songs are as a catchy as they are here. As Five Sauce sing on "Hey Everybody!" "We can all get some, yeah, we can all get paid."