2 out of 5
Label: Hydra Head Records
Produced by: Kurt Ballou
If a band has had some type of official release since, say, the 90s, there’s usually some internet trace of them: reviews a MySpace page; maybe some blogger has mentioned them in passing; or at the very least there’s usually a mention from a local online paper of a show they played. Maybe some additional sleuthing can piece band members’ names to other projects. These scraps can them form a vague outline of what the band was. …And then there are releases like The Never Never’s These Ain’t No Purple Hearts, which are only mentioned on cataloguing sites like Discogs, and the liner notes of which only have first names for its members (wonderfully generic: Dan, Kelly, Matt). I found one collector’s blog on which it’s described as one of Hydra Head’s potentially most despised albums (I think this is a supposition, based on how cheap it’s often sold for, and its availability), and, hey, one mention of drummer Dan Colby – a last name! – also having been in The Huguenots, prior to Never Never. I do suppose that amounts to a modicum of traceability.
But where I’m going with this is that the band, and the release, have surprisingly little traceable history out there, at least via average Google-able skills, and I’m going to reach and suggest that that might be due to how relatively forgettable they are.
These Ain’t No Purple Hearts is more realistically an “average” album, an emo / indie-rock thing that seems a little weird in the latter-day Hydra Head metal landscape, but makes sense in their early days of Piebald and the like, when it was rock and hardcore made and produced by friends. However, it’s so exceedingly average that it becomes rather annoying, that the group doesn’t try to stick to anything at which to excel. The bass-heavy riffage is well-served by producer Ballou, and the group gets up to a rock-ish shimmy and talk-shout vocal style reminiscent of Call Me Lightning, but for every iota of momentum the group manages, there’s then a desire to get quirky, and add odd guitar inflections and timings. If they pushed things in either one of these directions, tracks could potentially stand out, but as-is, they songs avoid any consistent and thus memorable passages, and aren’t distinct enough in their weirdness. As to the lyrics: I remember when I was trying to be part of a band, and we sketched out some vague, vague riffs, and then I volunteered to write lyrics and I pretty much just phoned in some angsty, non-specific stuff. When a bandmate read the lyrics, instead of remarking on any hidden genius, he just sort of shrugged and remarked on them being angsty, and non-specific. Y’know – that’ll do. And that’s the impression I get here: the words (included on a lyric sheet) aren’t about much of anything, and so don’t add any further dimension to the music.
The Never Never probably sounded good as an opening act, and if they were your friends, I’m sure you’d nod along approvingly. They cut a record, and maybe went on to other, more defining acts, and These Ain’t No Purple Hearts was perhaps rightfully relegated to memory.