Real Friends is one of the biggest bands of the current pop punk scene even though the discography consists of nothing but a plethora of EPs and a one-off single. After signing to Fearless Records in late-2013, though, the band announced that its next release would be something that fans have been waiting for: a full-length record! Maybe This Place is the Same and We're Just Changing has an official release date of July 22, though there was a bootleg vinyl release that hit the shelves of some record stores one week in advance.
The record opens with a soundclip of someone setting down keys and walking on hardwood flooring followed by a very calming guitar part. Then vocalist Dan Lambton states, "Maybe this place is the same and we're just changing" in a fairly soft manner. "Maybe This Place is the Same..." isn't anything but an introductory track – but it is a solid one. "I Don't Love You Anymore" is the first actual song, and I was very pleased by the end of the first chorus because the music seems much more inspired and real than what we last heard from the band on Put Yourself Back Together, which I thought was a lackadaisical release aside from two or three songs.
Real Friends wastes no time in "Cover You Up," as it's full of energy and passion from the very first second. The chorus, though it passes by a bit too fast, contains a very relateable lyric ("I only miss you late at night when I can't sleep and get way too honest / I've lost you, so I've got nothing to lose") that is, for the most part, presented aggressively by Lambton. Even more vocal aggression is displayed after the first chorus and after Joe Taylor (Knuckle Puck), who is sure to gain a few new fans of his own, belts out his guest vocal part.
The following two songs, "Old Book" and "Summer," show a bit more of the dynamic sound that Real Friends was going for on Maybe This Place is the Same and We're Just Changing; "Old Book" is more on the emo side of the scale while "Summer" is a catchy pop punk song. Even for Real Friends, though, the lyrics in "Summer" seem extremely cliché – especially during the mediocre chorus ("I miss you like the summer / Right now I think I need you here, but I don't really need you / I'll get through the winter without you"). Thankfully, the final chorus has much more oomph to it and brings "Summer" to a close on a positive note.
"Loose Ends," which was the first single the band released after signing to a label, is a very high-energy song that is home to my personal favourite chorus, both lyrically and musically. It also features Chris Roetter (Like Moths to Flames), who brings his harsh vocals along with him. "Short Song" acts as an interlude without removing any of the band members to chill things out. It actually does the complete opposite of a typical interlude, as it absolutely explodes after a drum roll near the 50-second mark.
"Sixteen" and "To My Old Self" are two of the slowest, softest songs on the record, and they prove that Real Friends has grown to be more than just a pop punk band. "To My Old Self," in particular, is extremely unique. Emo-influenced, and almost twinkly, guitars drive the main portion of the song while the drumming is fairly laid back. That being said, like in "Short Song," a drum roll near the end of "To My Old Self" sets things up for a big finish – and Real Friends certainly delivers again.
Sandwiched between the two aforementioned tracks is "Spread Me All Over Illinois." The chorus is another huge one, and the instrumentation on this track is definitely different for Real Friends – making "Spread Me All Over Illinois" one of the strongest songs on the record. Similarly, "I Think I'm Moving Forward" is a bit more aggressive than the majority of Maybe This Place is the Same and We're Just Changing, and it reminded me of "Dirty Water" and "Alexander Supertramp" from the three-song EP that Real Friends released in late-2012. The other half of the title track, "And We're Just Changing...," is the final song. Unlike the intro, "And We're Just Changing..." is a song that has all the parts: an intro, verses, a chorus, a bridge and an outro. The title track lyric make a return and the record ends in a very similar way that it began.
Undeniably one of the silliest bands offstage (and even sometimes onstage), Real Friends is anything but that on its debut full length. Yes, sometimes the lyrics are very cliché, but that also means they're probably relateable. This is also the band's most dynamic release to date, as there are a few soft songs and there are several fast and aggressive songs – and there are even a handful of songs that lay somewhere in the middle. That being said, Maybe This Place is the Same and We're Just Changing has something for everyone, and old fans should be thrilled to have a Real Friends release that takes longer to listen to than heating up a pizza.