When Facing the Things We Turn Away From: Luke Hemmings Lets Us In A Little Closer
The twelve-track debut album from 5 Seconds of Summer frontman, Luke Hemmings, is intimate and inviting. When Facing the Things We Turn Away From comes at the end of Hemmings’ first decade in the music industry. It’s a reflection of his time growing up in the public eye – he was just fifteen when 5 Seconds of Summer formed – and allows us to imagine how such a unique situation might feel.
When a band starts to branch out and its members begin to explore solo projects (Hemmings’ bandmate, Ashton Irwin, released his debut solo album Superbloom last year) it’s usually a sign that the band is nearing its end. But this doesn’t seem to be the case for the Australian four-piece. It’s evident that the four members of 5SOS are not just colleagues – they’re friends, first and foremost, and that means allowing each other the space to breathe creatively.
WFTTWTAF is not Hemmings trying to separate himself from his band and make a name for himself as a solo artist, it’s purely a passion-fuelled project. This rare circumstance in which Hemmings has been able to create an album means there’s no pressure to make a commercially successful record. Hemmings has creative freedom to do what he pleases, and his album is all the better for it. After ten years of making music with the three other members of his band, Hemmings can finally make an album that his solely his. The commercial praise he is likely to receive for this record is a added bonus.
The album’s opening track, lead single Starting Line, is euphoric with a soaring chorus. It’s an exciting opener and makes listeners feel as though we’re quite literally at the starting line of something special.
On Motion, the second single released from the record, Hemmings sings of “a sense of distrust with the way you perceive your own thoughts and the way the world moves around you”. The upbeat and catchy track is juxtaposed with Place In Me which comes straight after Motion in the track listing. Place In Me is a sombre and gentle apology to someone Hemmings has let down. “You’ll always have a place in me” he sings. It’s sad.
Baby Blue is from the perspective of a young Hemmings on the cusp of stardom having to leave his old life in Australia behind to find success as a musician. It’s one of the strongest tracks on the album and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Harry Styles record thanks to exciting production from John Hill and Sammy Witte. Mum starts with a dramatic beat as Hemmings sings to his mother, apologising for not calling home after being swept up by the commotion of fame. The song evolves into an electric crescendo as Hemmings admits to losing himself at some point during his career.
Hemmings gets deeply personal on Diamonds, questioning ‘is this the way it will always be?’ and equally so on A Beautiful Dream, in which he describes his frustrations with time slipping away as he grows older. It’s nostalgic and dreamy, and despite being one of the shortest tracks on the record, it still packs a punch.
Sonically, the record is brilliant. Hemmings is a seasoned writer and it’s clear to see as he lays it all on the table in his lyrics. Accompanied by catchy melodies, his vocals shine, particularly on Saigon and Slip Away.
WFTTWTAF is perhaps closest in sound to 5SOS’ most recent album, CALM. The sound is mature and a far cry from the pop-punk singles the band released at the start of their career. Hemmings has found his individual sound somewhere between the current offerings of his band and his own personal influences of psychedelic rock, dramatic drums and song writing legends such as Joni Mitchell and Bon Iver.
Despite being a successful musician for ten years already, this album almost feels as though Hemmings is only at the beginning. It’s an exciting insight into which direction Hemmings, and his bandmates, might take their music in the future.
Words: Ellie Croston