After having a week to digest the sophomore release of Houston rock band, Waterparks, it’s more apparent than ever that Entertainment is a cutting edge triumph that you should be paying your undivided attention. The articulately modulated confines of resilient petulance in a realm of expository narratives provides a breath of fresh-air in an otherwise stagnant trend-lead era. Vocalist and songwriter Awsten Knight persistently defies stale genre margins by seamlessly mastering every aspect of creative control he can get his hands on. From pitch-shifting vocals and sending them through guitar pedals for additional harmonies in “Peach (Lobotomy)” that echo his own voice as he conveys each part of the story to layering snippets of prismatic synth segments that line the framework with the unique sounds we’ve come to love and expect from a Waterparks release. The live shows to come with this album cycle will be excitedly dynamic displays of much larger guitar compositions and quick-tempered drum accompaniments.
With such a progressive step into the future, agnostic reactions are quick to be voiced. Those who choose only to see Waterparks as surface level due to their overwhelmingly young fan-base, conventionally attractive appearances, and pop-passing sound are a crying shame. Entertainment is launching this trio into the exposure they’ve earned so diligently. Still, it’s easy for those who are reluctant to assume that they’ve been an overnight success since signing with Equal Vision Records and having help from the Madden brothers in 2015, but that would mean that five hard-earned years of demoing and untiringly self-promoting shows under-the-radar before then would have been for nothing. Knight enervates the subject of feeling written off as they’re working so hard to be their own thing and are only seen as just the ‘next big thing’ in the public eye. This has opened a valiant moment of fearlessness in their career and thus they have just released their most achingly honest album yet.
Knight is a mastermind of discreet transparency. In an era where we hear what we want and discard the rest, Knight plays both sides by laying everything out on the table with fine-tuned imperial mannerism. It’s an elaborate endeavor making an album that’s completely transparent without isolating yourself entirely. At least one song on each release breaks free of restraint and roams to the stormiest perimeters. Knight has always had a hostility towards bands who manipulate the trends to get superficial success. There’s an incessant need to follow trends and only make art that the masses “want” these days. “TANTRUM” introduces us to the most aggressive sound we’ve ever been exposed to from Knight’s mind. There has always been a line waiting to be crossed, but something has always stopped them from reaching the other side. On their previous record Double Dare, volatile track “Little Violence” sinks its teeth into fragile masculinity and the fine line between complete disregard of pop-passing rock bands and those same people wanting to get in on that success when paths are crossed. The situation has become more percussive since then with no foreseen end in the near future.
There’s a recurring theme of luck and rarity laced throughout the 10 songs that make up Entertainment. Opening track “11:11” is immersed in serendipitous remarks and the hesitancy of surrendering to chance that it comes with. For someone who never writes love songs without traces of spite, the moments of endearment are ever warmhearted. Knight generally keeps his true feelings in metaphor and now has to accept that onlookers have caught on to the deeper meanings. Phrases like ‘I wanted privacy, routine, and everything between while they’re just finding me out’ from “Blonde” and ‘I try to hide with my words but you just find me clever’ in “11:11” show Knight’s battle with wanting to be transparent and having to face that loss of privacy in his personal life that comes with that honesty. The downfall comes in “We Need To Talk” where he references luck once again, but this time in past tense. This goodbye gets even more bittersweet with each listen.
Reflecting on past affinities from an outsider’s perspective is always a heartsick endeavor. Hearing all about the candid predicaments and viewing the downfalls without being able to help is dismal, but I guess that’s just what we call entertainment.