Before listening to their debut album, We Don’t Have Each Other, I had absolutely no idea who Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties were. This new project from The Wonder Years frontman Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell is a far cry from his pop punk roots. So before I had even listened to the album itself, I was already somewhat confused as to what to expect from Campbell’s new solo project.
Opening track Our Apartment begins acoustic and stripped back, with Campbell’s typically American yet undeniably endearing vocals weaving above melancholic guitar chords, setting the tone for what I thought was going to be a chilled out, stripped back acoustic album. However, less than a minute in, it suddenly grows into something unexpectedly big, kicking in to an upbeat folk-rock track flecked with the occasional surprisingly thought-provoking lyric, such as ‘I found enough of your hairpins to build you a monument.’
The remainder of the album seems to follow suit, with a number of the tracks beginning understated and acoustic and then evolving into rocky power-ballad-esque songs mourning lost love. The highlight of the album is Divorce of the American South, which is an undeniably twee attempt at creating something folky and sincere yet stands out because it is the strongest and most consistent track of the album. It starts as it means to go on and delivers on its promise of a sweet acoustic melody, without attempting to grow into something bigger like the majority of the album does.
Many of the tracks border into typical American alt-rock territory, joining the likes of All Time Low and All American Rejects, and would not look out of place on the soundtrack to some teen movie where the geek of the class falls for the quarterback of the football team, and then she takes off her glasses and suddenly she becomes prom queen. You Ain’t No Saint is a main example of this, with St Joe Keeps Us Safe and Thunderbird Inn among others.
Overall, the album is generally unoffensive and bearable, with a few moments of loveliness that almost makes you think it is worth another listen. More than anything, however, it feels like Dan Campbell had absolutely no idea what he wanted to achieve with Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties; whether to be a harmless folk-rock project or pop-punk or just a generally all-American band churning out hits sure to be featured on the soundtrack of the latest teen rom-com movie. It is this air of indecision, despite the occasional flicker of potential, that prevents We Don’t Have Each Other from being anything more than simply background music.