The Rise & Fall of Loverboy, the third album from Southern California band Sir Sly, delivers an upbeat amalgamation of rock, electronica, and hip-hop that straddles the line between pop entertainment and art. With no shortage of hooks, Sir Sly takes listeners on a journey of introspection, acceptance, and self-sabotage through infectious grooves and danceable beats.
The crunching drum beat and distorted synthesizers of album-opener “Honey” twist and pulse, creating a feeling of claustrophobia as the music surrounds and slowly closes in. Like much of the album, “Honey” deals with the excitement of a new relationship, with frontman Landon Jacobs singing, “I want you more than wealth; I want you more than money.” The ominous encircling music, however, adds tension, hinting at the conflict that can destroy even a new and exciting love.
In “I.M.G,” this tension is brought to the forefront. “Love in and love out,” Jacobs repeats in the intro, a thumping bassline disrupting his jangling guitar arpeggios. In the song, Jacobs sings of his self-destructive tendencies and the damage they cause. “Hating you doesn’t mean I love myself now,” he sings over Jason Suwito’s rumbling synthesizer. “Put you down, I put myself down.”
As the title suggests, The Rise & Fall of Loverboy deals with the good and bad lurking inside Jacobs as he strives for personal growth and self-discovery. The Madonna homage “Material Boy” is appropriately drenched in nostalgic saccharine pop as Jacobs wrestles with the soul-crushing effects of superficial living. “I’m only as sick as my secrets,” he sings over a propulsive retro groove. Later in the song, he adds, “It bears repeating that I’m sick and I can’t quit / No longer a Christian, but I’m still afraid of judgment.”
With its slow hip-hop beat and a guitar solo from Gary Clark, Jr., “Citizen” is one of the stand-out tracks. The song is an acerbic rejection of Trumpism (“You will never make anything great again”), with Jacobs showing concern about the political landscape. “I don’t wanna be your perfect citizen / Dive out the car; it’s headed in the wrong direction,” he sings, gospel crooning in the background.
Though most of the album is uptempo and beat-driven, there are a few slow moments. The acoustic ballad “Little Deaths” has Jacobs crooning over his softly strummed guitar. “I don’t know how to be alone,” he sings. “Never learned to face the unknown.”
As with previous Sir Sly releases, the best moments of The Rise & Fall of Loverboy are those with an underlying tension — a murky baseline or distorted synth, swelling instruments that build to a confrontation, Jacobs searching the depths of his psyche and not liking what he finds. It is indie-pop with a thick finishing coat painted on a jagged surface, catchy and rhythmic but with an aura of danger.