By Rachel A.G. Gilman
Never Shout Never has had many changes in the stylizing of their name since arriving on the alternative scene back in 2007. Musically, they’ve remained fairly true to Christofer Drew Ingle’s singer-songwriter roots. The once one-man band, which eventually expanded to four, gained popularity with songs like “Happy” and “Big City Dreams” on the Warped Tour, emo indie rock scene of the late 2000s. After the 2013 release, “Sunflower,” failing to chart, the Joplin, Missouri native and his band are back, although the result feels about as recycled as the youth they sing about.
In a November interview, Drew said “Recycled Youth,” planned for 2014, was going to be “a soft release” leading up to new material in 2015. Indeed, he was correct. “Recycled Youth, Volume 1,” which perhaps too ambitiously anticipates a sequel, is a reimagining of sorts of nine Never Shout Never tracks, some which were originally pretty popular, and others less well known. Results are mixed.
The album opens with 2009’s “On the Brightside,” a track Drew has done little to alter. His voice has deepened and he has expanded from a single acoustic guitar to orchestra strings and a tambourine; however, the added instruments add nothing to the song. They seem to confuse the simplistic message the lyrics try to convey. Similarly, 2010’s “Sacrilegious” loses its edge of teenage rebellion when slowed down to double in length and weighed down with instrumental accompaniment.
Conversely, the stripping down and gradual building of “Robot” helps it to gain credibility. It transforms from a rip-off, top twenty radio play tune to something that allows Drew to croon the lyrics, “I’m just a coma, a deadly sleep, my heart is breakin’ but I just can’t weep.” By darkening the mood on “Black Hole/Liar Liar” with prominent string plucking and a slowed tempo, it takes its theme of revenge more seriously. “Sweet Perfection” also manages to age gracefully into a much longer but equally happy-go-lucky love song, almost catchier than it’s older sibling.
The rest of the material lands somewhere in the middle. “Love Is Our Weapon” is almost identical to the original recording except for Drew’s aged vocals. Ironically, “Trance-Like Getaway” is much simpler musically than “Simplistic Trance-Like Getaway,” including a lot of whistling and acoustic guitar, but neither does enough to distinguish itself from any other singer-songwriter work daydreaming about running away from it all. With the addition of spaces in its name, “Here Goes Nothing” starts off promising enough with a new kick drum and a more pop-like tempo, but fails to deliver entirely, becoming a bit of a blurry mess when Drew over reverberates his vocal track.
For those of us who have not quite given up our Hot Topic t-shirts and ripped black skinny jeans, “Recycled Youth, Volume 1” will be like a walk down middle school memory lane with a lot more violins. Unlike Christofer Drew, we’ll realize it’s time to move on.
Rachel A.G. Gilman is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org