REVIEW: Driver Friendly – ‘Unimagined Bridges’

driver friendly

ArtistDriver Friendly
AlbumUnimagined Bridges
Label: Hopeless Records
Genre: Pop-Punk / Pop-Rock

When I saw that Driver Friendly’s new album was titled Unimagined Bridges, I let out a chuckle that hid a lingering feeling of disappointment; the band used the metaphorical bridge extensively on their Hopeless Records debut EP Peaks + Valleys, and seeing the word in the new record’s title immediately set off a fear trigger that they hadn’t progressed as much as I would have hoped in the year since their last effort. While my fears immediately subsided upon initial listens, it’s important to remember that a band doesn’t need to reinvent itself upon each subsequent release. Driver Friendly crafted a winning formula with their debut record, 2012’s Bury A Dream, and each release since has kept the same pseudo pop-punk backbone while tightening the gears and adding a fresh coat of paint.

If you’re unfamiliar with the band’s sound, imagine Brand New was a happy-go-lucky ska band complete with uplifting lyrics and a horn section when Your Favorite Weapon was released. Now picture what The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me would sound like, given the band’s trajectory of progression. That’s Driver Friendly in a nutshell: fuzzy, indie-influenced “pop-punk” music with a wonderful horn section.

Unimagined Bridges takes everything that I loved about Bury A Dream and the new tracks on Peaks + Valleys and just plain nails it. The record is cohesive yet varied, catchy yet genuine, and progressive enough from previous releases to cement the band as one of Hopeless Records’ hidden gems.

“The Game (This Won’t Hurt)” serves as a short intro that comes and goes before leading directly into “Everything Gold,” the first “real” song on the album. Released as the second single, “Everything Gold” showcases a dirty chord progression and introduces some of the record’s common musical themes: horns, soaring choruses, dual-vocal parts, and a competent rhythm section. “Stand So Tall” is the perfect pop-rock single, featuring one of the best choruses on the record and a perfect guest vocal spot from The Wonder Years frontman Dan Campbell. Campbell’s husky voice does wonders in complementing the lyrically and tonally bright voices of co-vocalists Tyler Welsh and Andy Lane. Fuzzy and uplifting, “Stand So Tall” is a flawless embodiment of where the band came from and competes with closer “Bridges” as the group’s single best song to date.

Elsewhere, Driver Friendly showcase the new styles they’ve incorporated into their sound. “The Conversation” slows down the pace of the record with a two and a half minute halfway point interlude. “Undone” is slightly reminiscent of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” showing the band taking on an arena-ready anthem sound. “What A Predicament!” speeds things up and offers a more guitar-led version of the band. The musicianship is vastly improved over previous releases where it needs to be, with some tasteful riffage showing through in the back half of the record, particularly in “Bridges,” which also showcases Tyler and Andy singing effortlessly off of each other. Despite the stylistic departures, Unimagined Bridges is extremely cohesive, without a single track that left me scratching my head over what purpose it serves.

Succinct and to the point, Unimagined Bridges is a flawless pop record and the shining example of where pop-punk should be headed. Positivity reigns supreme in the lyrics, and the interesting musicianship ensures that Driver Friendly is the best and most interesting band in the game today. Driver Friendly has evolved into the best possible version of itself, and sets the bar extremely high for pop-punk music and themselves in coming years. Without any question, Unimagined Bridges is Hopeless Records’ best release of the year and makes a strong case as a contender for instant classic.

Review written by: John Bazley (Twitter)

John Bazley

John Bazley was raised in central New Jersey by the romantic aura of the Asbury Park beachfront, punk rock, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. He is still trying to figure all of this stuff out.

In addition to UTG, John has contributed to Alternative Press and Full Frequency Media. Follow him on Twitter for pictures of his dog.
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