Fidlar’s self-titled debut album was about as straightforward as albums come. The L.A. snot punks did drugs, got drunk, shit on humanity, and sang about it with a healthy dose of self-deprecation. They weren’t trying to change your life. They weren’t even trying to look cool. They were just being honest: Drugs and booze are fun and they don’t care if you don’t care. Too is a much more complicated record; drugs and booze still pervade Fidlar, but the band’s relationship with them is much more fraught as adulthood creeps over the horizon.
Unhinged album centerpiece “Leave Me Alone” epitomizes this conflict, with singer Zac Carper—who’s now “mostly” sober—oscillating wildly between deriding his burnout tendencies and aggressively embracing them. This push and pull is representative of the album as a whole, which finds the band struggling to justify its destructive behavior in the wake of so many “stupid decisions.” “West Coast,” for instance, romanticizes the coke-fueled tours of yesteryear against sunny harmonies, while the skeletal, bluesy “Overdose” paints a bleak portrait of an addict with a death wish. “I gotta grow up, so what?” Carper sings on “Stupid Decisions,” and it’s as good as a theme for this album as you’re likely to find.
It’s not just curbing the bad behavior, though. Growing up means paying bills, and opener “40oz. On Repeat” is clever in how it explores the perils of “selling out” within the band’s most sanitized, radio-friendly single. It’s not a great song, but it establishes up front Fidlar’s willingness to edit the template. With the help of producer Jay Joyce, Too finds the band branching out from the pummeling power chords and surf-punk solos of its early work to arrangements that evoke ’70s arena rock as much as it does gutter punk. Side B, especially, eases into a lovely, leisurely pace, with throwback tracks like “Hey Johnny” and “Stupid Decisions” indulging in a wistful melancholy that went unexplored on the group’s debut.
For better or worse, Too’s pristine production also allows the band to broaden its punk leanings. Burners like “Punks” and “Bad Medicine” maintain the signature snarl of the group’s debut, but others serve to exploit the band’s innate pop sensibility a bit too vigorously. “West Coast” is catchy as hell—and highlight the members’ pitch-perfect harmonies—but it trades the bug-eyed intensity that makes Fidlar special for the spritely sheen of a Sum 41 knockoff. The same goes for “Sober,” a sugar-sweet anthem that, despite its pitch-black sentiment, is far too precocious for its own good.
Too works best when it contradicts itself. By depicting the struggle that comes with reconciling real life with raucousness, Fidlar has managed to create an honest and occasionally brutal ode to transition. It’s a bold step away from the grimy surf-punk that made the band famous, but anyone who’s old enough to feel the buzz wearing off will be right there with Fidlar.