5 Seconds of Summer Infuses Classic Rock Into CALM

The cover of CALM, the latest album by 5 Seconds of Summer. CALM is an acronym of the four band members' first names, Calum, Ashton, Luke, and Michael. According to lead singer Luke Hemmings, “It’s also a nod to our fans that coined us that name in our early days. They’ve been using that acronym for a long time. It kind of just sums up that we’re a little bit older and a little bit wiser.”

Source: Interscope Records

The cover of CALM, the latest album by 5 Seconds of Summer. CALM is an acronym of the four band members’ first names, Calum, Ashton, Luke, and Michael. According to lead singer Luke Hemmings, “It’s also a nod to our fans that coined us that name in our early days. They’ve been using that acronym for a long time. It kind of just sums up that we’re a little bit older and a little bit wiser.”

Shelby Paugh

Australian band 5 Seconds of Summer has been on fire the last few years, with hit song after hit song making them one of the top bands of the lat 2010s. While their fourth studio album CALM continues their dominance of the pop charts (the album debuted at #2 even in spite of all the stores shut down because of the pandemic), the album marks the transformation of the group from pop-punk to pop-rock. Each track shows the band’s major rock influences, from bands as diverse as Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, U2, The Cure, and even The Beatles. The genre shift pays off, as this album is the strongest album yet.

Compared to the band’s third album Youngblood, this album is much lighter in tone, despite all of the heavy rock influences. The band revealed that CALM is about moving forward in life rather than being stuck in one place. This is embodied in “Easier,” their first album single released in mid-2019. The song gained early praise for its heavy bass and hard-rock influenced track (the band revealed that it was mainly inspired by Nine Inch Nails “Closer” but with bits from Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears). Fellow pop sensation Charlie Puth helped write “Easier,” giving the song a hint of pop.

Fortunately, the other songs on the album live up to the excellent composition of “Easier.” The band kicks the album off with “Red Desert,” which was greatly influenced by “Killer Queen” by Queen. The stacked vocals, rock harmonies, and huge drums and this track were inspired by the Eagles and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The stadium rock sound of “Red Desert” stands as a contrast to tracks like “No Shame,” which gives off an ’80s pop vibe. “No Shame,” a song about the infatuation people have of becoming obsessed with being in the media,uses slick ’80s synth to underscore their warning about falling into consumerism. With this track, the band has sent the message that they are not just a pretty-boy pop band–they have something to say.

While other bands have tried to show off their musical influences and just come off as a cheap copy, every track uses their inspiration well.  The album is full of clever Prince-inspired rhythms. “Best Years” is a ballad clearly influenced by The Edge from U2 in its bridge. Both “No Shame” and “Wildflower” tip their hats to the Beach Boys (Luke Hemmings says that “Wildflower” is supposed to be a “big, positive, euphoric anthem”). The guitars in “Thin White Lies” are heavily influenced by The Cure, and the band’s New Wave influences are evident in “Lonely Heart,” “Not In The Same Way,” and “High” (a pop-punk riff on the quirky cords of The Beatles).

While the influences on the band are clear, they don’t distract–the band uses them as ways to forge their own interesting style. One of the most noteworthy songs is the ninth track, “Lover of Mine.” The song was written in ¾ time, a rarity in pop music, that Hemmings revealed was his attempt to create a Jeff Buckley type of tune. The song includes huge snare drums in the back, huge bass, vocals, and an acoustic guitar. This is my favorite track of the album, as it shows what a confluence of different genres can inspire in a talented creator.

Overall, 5 Seconds of Summer nailed their fourth studio album. The band experimented with new sounds, stacked vocals, rock harmonies, huge drums and bass, and beautiful lyrics that paint a picture. The album was officially dropped on March 27, 2020, and despite the promotion of the album being cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, the album is doing well in both sales and critical response (due to a shipping error almost 10,000 copies were released early in the US, allowing the album to chart to #2 a week early). The band members have been doing their part as well, engaging in online interviews as well as interacting with fans via Instagram Live, Twitch, and Twitter. Luke Hemmings also participated in BBC Radio One’s charity track “Times Like These,” which has helped promote the album in Europe. I highly recommend this album, and moreover, I highly recommend listening to the album in order. Like the bands that influenced it, CALM is meant to be an album experience, and once listened to, it’s an album a listener won’t soon forget.