When I first discovered Wilbur Soot, the frontman of up-and-coming indie-rock band Lovejoy, it certainly wasn’t through music — actually, this multi-talented master of the Internet gained his first million subscribers as an English Minecraft YouTuber and Twitch streamer. Since Soot’s rise to fame, Minecraft has exploded, and his channel with it, granting him the platform to successfully branch out to other endeavors like music. Soot’s most recent solo single, “Your New Boyfriend,” was a hit, going viral on TikTok and boasting over sixty million YouTube views.
After that, Soot decided to delve into music more seriously and formed the band Lovejoy with guitarist Joe Goldsmith, bassist Ash Kabosu, and drummer Mark Boardman. And even though Soot did almost no advertising for the band’s debut EP “Are You Alright?” on his Minecraft channel and other social media, it still performed insanely well. Two songs on the EP now have over 10 million YouTube views and tens of millions of Spotify plays.
Lovejoy’s newest EP, “Pebble Brain,” follows the same high-energy pop-punk-rock formula that carried “Are You Alright?” to Spotify’s “Viral Hits” playlist. Overall, I’m impressed with it, especially considering that Soot isn’t a professional vocalist. The lyrics might be confusing to many, but their vagueness is their strength: Depending on the listener’s interpretation, they can have implications on the personal, political, or societal level. I was also excited by every occasion when tracks danced around different genres or had unexpected melodic changes.
I wish there were more of these occasions, however, because it felt like half of the songs were trying to recreate “Are You Alright?” without much success. The reason for this isn’t irrational — “Are You Alright?” was, by all definitions, a hit — but on this EP, I found that the songs that were the least traditional were the best.
I’d also love to see Lovejoy use different instruments and genres besides pop punk and rock — virtually every song was relatively high-energy and used the same guitar, bass, and drums. While they were wonderfully played by Kabosu, Goldsmith, and Boardman, I’d be excited to hear more choral background vocals like in track six “The Fall,” some synth, and more chill music in general.
The EP starts off with the whimsical, taunting “Oh Yeah, You Gonna Cry?”, told from the point of view of an ex teasing his former girlfriend’s new lover, with scathing lines like “She told me that she fucking hates you.” With the comedic tone and instrumentation (trumpets, riffs) it sometimes felt like this song was trying too hard to sound like “Your New Boyfriend,” a solo song of Soot’s. Unfortunately, “Oh Yeah” lacks the catchiness of “Your New Boyfriend.”
The next song, “Model Buses,” starts off with a longer instrumental intro and an electric guitar riff that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an Olivia Rodrigo single. Another fast-paced rock-pop-punk song, the melody of “Model Buses” reminded me a lot of the melody of “Sex Sells,” another successful track from Lovejoy’s previous EP. Musically, the song wasn’t all that distinct from other Lovejoy songs, but the lyrics are quite clever; they’re a reference to conservative UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who said in an interview that one of his hobbies was making model buses. However, as per Soot’s not-so-secret political views, “Model Buses” is harshly sarcastic: “You’re so appealing / We can barely see your hair receding.”
“Concrete,” the next track, is another high-energy rock song that I think is one of the best on the album — while the instrumentation wasn’t different from “Model Buses” and “Oh Yeah,” the melody was distinct. The lyrics are also excellent, though its message, told from the point of view of a cheating lover who fails to understand why their now-ex is angry at them (“All this over a kiss?”), is rotten. It’s a great earworm, and I especially love the part of the song where the guitar stops and all you can hear is fast-paced, marching band-esque drumming before the chorus continues.
The energies of the guitar and drums of “Perfume,” the next song, are quite lively, which is a contrast to its emo lyrics and sad tone of Soot’s voice. Soot’s voice sounded incredible in this — at times, I wish the band turned up the volume of his voice — and Soot masterfully switched between soft, mournful, and heavy-metal shouting whenever the occasion called for it. I also like that this song deviated from the previous “verse / pre-chorus / chorus” song structure, opting to omit a pre-chorus and bridge entirely.
According to TommyInnit, popular Minecraft streamer and good friend of Soot, Lovejoy was about to omit “Perfume” from the EP but was convinced by Tommy to keep it in — I’m glad they did, since it’s one of my favorite songs from the EP.
The next song, “You’ll Understand When You’re Older,” deals with a rather niche topic, the difficult toil of waiters and other restaurant workers during the pandemic. Like “Perfume,” this song lacks a pre-chorus, bridge, and even a chorus. The song ends on an epic guitar riff that added even more color to the track. However, melodically, the song didn’t stand out well from “Oh Yeah, You Gonna Cry?” and “Model Buses.”
“The Fall,” the second-to-last track on “Pebble Brain,” starts off with a very interesting descending guitar chord progression that has almost a bad-ass tone to it — a contrast to the theme of the lyrics, which deal with depression, class inequality, and humanity. Eventually, the song erupts into loud, fast guitar chords, a chorus of “oo”s in the background, and Soot making a grandiose speech to his listener in “The Greatest Showman” fashion about the “apathy” in our society. This lyric, among others, is wonderfully vague. As Soot makes several mentions of politics earlier in the song, this could highlight the apathy that the British government has towards the poor. It could also mean the general lack of compassion that people have towards one another.
In my opinion, this dynamic song is a masterpiece and my favorite on the album — it so clearly stands out, from the higher emphasis on the dark bass to the lyrical message to Soot’s speech at the end, an awe-inspiring mix between spoken word and rap.
“It’s All Futile! It’s All Pointless!” is melodically not very distinct from “Model Buses,” “You’ll Understand,” and “Oh Yeah,” and, similarly to “Model Buses,” sounds a bit like “Sex Sells” at times (the exception would be the pre-chorus, which is an excellent, distinct buildup to the chorus.) Its lyrics make fun of a bleak situation (“I lost the passion that comes with living / Since I started university”). The song builds on the “apathy” of the previous track and applies it to romance, telling the story of a woman who has lost feelings for her lover.
This revamp of Soot’s old song of the same name is a rather conventional ending to the EP; I would’ve loved to see “The Fall” end it on a bang. As a whole, I don’t think “Pebble Brain” will reach the same numbers as “All You Alright?”, but it was very enjoyable to listen to.
Now, excuse me while I leave “Concrete” on repeat for several hours.
Claire Shin is a Contributing Writer for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram at @claireshin86, or on TikTok also at @claireshin86.