cone magazine

Album Review: 408 – Hot Mess

Album Release Date: March 22, 2024
Genre: Alternative / Pop Punk

In the words of the late great Kurt Cobain, ‘Teenage angst has paid off well,’ and no better description could be created for Orlando-based pop-punk outfit 408. Following 2022’s ‘Out Of It’ the quartet has returned with thirty-three minutes of fist pumping tunes, with track names like ‘Break Up With Your Girlfriend’ and ‘Clean My Room.’ Subtlety is not the name of the game, with ‘Hot Mess’ the equivalent of chugging a bright pink milkshake and losing yourself to the sugar rush. Still, pop punk is not a genre to wallow in. It’s to be played loud and screamed along to, and for the most part, 408 nails the criteria.

Opener ‘Remember Her Like That’ starts things off on solid footing, with the band’s love of Blink 182 proudly on display. With its arpeggio guitar line and talk of memories and lost love, it’s a rousing number that serves a good amount of emo drama. Despite various bios boasting of the band’s ability to mesh EDM, Electronic, and Hip Hop with their rock sound, Hot Mess is, thankfully, a straight summer guitar album 90% of the time. By avoiding the unholy alliance of the styles above, the guitar work of Nick Hanus and Nick Roque shines, adding some welcome texture to these three-minute numbers.

With its sing-along vocal line reminiscent of Fall Out Boy and chunky Sum 41-esque riff, the title track proves a real highlight, 408 adding some hilarious call and response ‘bro’ chants for added fun. The group may pray at the altar of kings of old, but they have studied well. 

A nice tempo change is the album’s big ballad, ‘Life Goes On.’ Using strings and mandolin, the song’s tale of lost youth is a nice respite sandwiched between the other tales of excess and relationship problems. Switch the vocals, and the song could easily be a lost R.E.M. cut. Here’s hoping the group produces future tracks in the same vain. 

Naval gazing over, and it’s back to talk of smashing mirrors and doing shots before unfortunately tripping over the finish line with closer ‘Glow On’. With its tropical house vibes meshing awkwardly with the band’s punk rock vocals, it does not play to 408’s strengths at all and makes a strange ending to what is, for the most part, a teenage party rock album. It’s a song made for vacation TV commercials, not for the stage.

Overall, ‘Hot Mess’ is a solid slab of modern glossy pop-punk with plenty of hooks and melodrama to keep you smiling. While not reinventing the wheel, these Floridian noise makers know how to have a good time and easily capture a sense of misspent youth. It’s a marked improvement on their debut, but let’s just hope that with album number three, they find their voice and run with it. In the meantime, enjoy the party!

Rating: 64%

Words by Sam Walker-Smart


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