Friday, March 31, 2006

The Never: eclectic, dramatic pop-rock

The Never: "Cavity"
"Summer Girl"
(from Antarctica 2006. Buy.)

"Bigger than Jared"
"I Heart U x 3"
(from The Never 2004. Buy.)

Sometimes the way a band describes its sound can be puzzling or misleading, but I actually thing that Chapel Hill's The Never have it about right when they say, "Imagine if Brian Wilson teamed up with Pink Floyd and battled Danny Elfman and Queen." Their music features strong multipart harmonies, widely varied song styles, a fine ear for a pop hook, and a well-developed sense of drama.

I realized when I sat down to write this that one of my favorite terms of praise is "ambitious." There's no question that applies to the Never -- I don't think anything says "ambition" more than a concept album. The Never's latest, Antarctica, is not only a thematic song cycle about "t
he journey of a country boy on his way to return a nuclear bomb to the city", it also features a 50-page booklet of color paintings. I admit I haven't heard it in its entirety, so I can't comment on how it hangs together as a whole, but the individual songs I've heard are strong. "Cavity" is a crunchy pop song, while "Summer Girl" is moody and dark. You can stream a few other songs at the band's MySpace site -- "Chase Music" is an instrumental that does some interesting things with strings and electronics.

Their earlier self-titled album seems similarly eclectic, if not as thematically unified. You can download many of the songs from the Never's site, but I've picked a couple that I particularly like. Here, I find myself fonder of their poppier moments, like the peppy power pop "I Heart U x 3" and the punk-pop "Bigger than Jared" -- the slower, more acoustic songs don't really grab me as strongly, at least not at first.

The release show for Antarctica was last Sunday at the Carrboro ArtsCenter -- they did the whole album with strings, which must have been something! They'll be touring all around the East Coast in April (dates here), including a performance at the Shakori Hills Festival, so keep a look out!


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