It seemed unlikely that Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell of the Big Pink would fall victim to “the sophomore slump”. Considering that the duo’s excellent, critically acclaimed debut album, A Brief History of Love, was packed with gargantuan choruses and stellar production, Furze and Cordell’s second album should’ve been hard, but not impossible, to top. On the Big Pink’s second album, Future This, Furze and Cordell disregard what worked well in A Brief History to create an album of inferior quality, something that appears to be a cheap imitation of their past work.
On Future, none of Furze and Cordell’s hooks explode with the same poignancy or strength as their earlier songs. The lyrics of love lost and broken hearts that really resonated with listeners in A Brief History are replaced in Future with lyrics about staying grounded and strong, a positivity that radiates in some of the best stadium rock. However, without the big sound the Big Pink created for themselves in their debut, the lyrics sound hackneyed and cliché, preachy rather than inspirational, and even ironic—it seems the duo lacked their own inspiration when writing these lyrics.
The album really only stuns its listeners in a few places, and when it does, it never fully reaches the same sonic power as even the weaker songs on A Brief History did. The track “Give It Up” benefits from its strong production: a glitchy synth line that echoes some influence from ’90s trip-hop. The lead single, “Stay Gold”, while underwhelming, works by closely adhering to the formula of the Big Pink’s most memorable hit, “Dominos”. Enough so that it even might have you raising an eyebrow. Maybe even two.
Future This’s weakness comes across as a production problem more than anything. With award-winning producer Paul Epworth by their side (known for his work with Adele and Florence + the Machine), the Big Pink almost have the right stuff for a great follow up, but the songs that fail the most are the songs that are the most ambitiously produced. The album’s middle and longest track, “1313”, tries to channel the lo-fi electronic sound pulled off by many great artists, but instead, the production and vocals seem muddled and repetitive, and the track even seems a few minutes too long. With Future, listeners can hear and understand what Furze and Cordell intended to do, but despite a great producer like Epworth, the duo never hit the mark as they really should have been able to.
With a band that’s proven that they can create material that’s catchy, innovative, and even ready for the radio, the Big Pink’s sophomore effort doesn’t seem to aim any higher than mediocrity. While many songs on Furze and Cordell’s debut were overshadowed by the behemoth success of the track “Dominos”—a standout that deserved the attention it got—the album was still consistently strong. With Future This, not one song stands strong enough on its own to carry the album, and the record itself blends together a little too closely to be consider a strong collective work.