Updated: Sep 30, 2018
Boston Manor have been a cornerstone of the UK pop punk scene for a few years now, but with their new record Welcome to the Neighbourhood they are taking a step onto the world stage. Welcome to the Neighbourhood is the band’s second full-length album, and sees them moving into a alternative-rock style sound that they dabbled with in their debut Be Nothing.
Opening with its titular track, Welcome to the Neighbourhood sets the scene: thematically, the record is based in Blackpool. Once a holiday town where sun-seeking Brits could let their hair down, Blackpool is now an outdated seaside resort struggling with what generations of carefree travellers left behind. “Welcome to the neighbourhood… if you could leave you would” echoes through the opening track, hinting at the sinister side of the modern town. Flowers in Your Dustbin sees Boston Manor working up to full tempo, flirting with the notion of beauty lost through Henry Cox’s powerful vocals in one of the strongest choruses on the album.
The lead single, Halo, expands the concept of the record some more. The track covers heroin abuse and the prevalence of drug issues in many British towns. England’s Dreaming complements the Halo well, spreading a sense of hazy unease. Welcome to the Neighbourhood is undoubtedly Boston Manor’s greatest achievement to date. The album’s bold start flows into the likes of Funeral Party, Digital Ghost and Tunnel Vision. These tracks flesh out the album’s concept, weaving through strained vocals bleeding with feeling. Themes of isolation and loss are evinced to the tune of distorted guitars and brilliantly placed rhythm sections.
Bad Machine is one of the albums bigger singalongs. It’s punchy, and well placed in the album to relieve some of the mounting tension. A short instrumental interlude leads into Stick Up, which provides another fun track as the chorus belts out “Put your hands up, this is a stick up!”. Boston Manor have done well to provide some outlets in an album that might seem thematically daunting at times. Welcome to the Neighbourhood finishes with The Day That I Ruined Your Life, its most personal note. Cox’s vocal melodies are allowed to come to the fore, with a great deal of texture to back them up. It is a period of reflection to close the album, bringing the stress and even pain that the album has explored in to close. The term ‘concept album’ is thrown around a good deal, but the truth is it takes quite something to spin an album around a particular notion without losing track of the bigger picture or the music itself.
With Welcome to the Neighbourhood, Boston Manor have painted a visceral picture of life in a struggling British town that many people around the country will recognise. In doing so they have adopted a more expansive style, balancing cryptic lyricism with the raw honesty that they so powerfully deliver. A champion achievement from Boston Manor that will no doubt herald a new era for the band.