Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Neverloving

Neverlove is Buck 65's latest album. You may've seen the video for the album's sole single (to date), "Super Pretty Naughty," and if so, you're probably wondering is this album just like that song, a weirdly sardonic, almost parodic yet in an odd way sincere match of contemporary hip-pop songs along the lines of "Starships" and Ke$ha songs. Well no, it's not; that song stands alone on this album. Whether that's a relief or disappointment is up to you.

But it doesn't sound out of place either, largely because half the album was produced by the same guy, Marten Tromm. So the same musical style is evident throughout the album. It's just that, I guess this turned out to be the happiest, most clubbish beat he came up with, so Buck decided to write that kind of song for that track. Because the rest of the songs are definitely more out of his traditional toolbox. He even does another one of those list songs that are tough to sit through (he must have a contingency of fans who really gets a kick out of them every time?). But yeah, musically, it's not far removed at all. All of Tromm's tracks have this sort of soft electronic sound that makes me think of Apple computers, with a random girl singing a pop song hook between Buck's verses. The other guy who produces a lot of songs on this album, Dean Nelson, has a very similar style, but forgoes the chorus girls. But on all the non-"Super Pretty Naughty" songs, the tone is warmer, slower, and Buck's lyrics are more like traditional BUck on the rest of the album.

The only other producers get one song apiece, Matt Hedlin (meh), who I've never heard of, and the pairing of Alias and DJ Mayonnaise, of course of Anticon. The Anticon'ers track has a lot more emphasis on percussion,with those rapid kind of choppy beats I'm not usually a big fan of, but which sounds pretty good here where it's alone in a sea of placid drums. And the scratching at the end (I presume by Mayo, but the liner notes don't specify, so it could also be Buck or whoever) really make it come alive.

I've lived with this album for a while now, rather than reviewing it as soon as it arrived, and... first of all I haven't found myself revisiting it often. I've had to push myself for the sake of this review. But that's not because it sucks (to use a fancy critical term). Buck has been known to let sucky stuff slip into his catalog every so often, i.e. some of those lame, cross-genre collaborations in the 20 Odd Years series; and I've called him out on those. This album is consistently superior to any of that. Lyrically, I found myself occasionally going, "oh, I kinda like that line," but never actually being gripped by anything he says. And musically, I found the music always up to the task of keeping the emotions of the song buoyant, with occasional catchy highlights. It just feels like he's painting a bit by his own numbers here, providing what he knows he can confidently create, even if he is working with new producers.

If I was trying to assemble a Buck 65 greatest hits album, I don't think I'd even lift this one out of my crates to remind myself of the song titles. ...Except possibly "Super Pretty," if I was in the right kind of mood; because that song's definitely got a voice to go along with its infectious groove. But if you asked me to come up with the songs I felt most let down by, or even annoyed my (there's been one or two of those), I also wouldn't go to Neverlove. It's just a comfortable level of good, enough to please the fan-base and keep them satisfied until the next album.

If you're a long haul fan, though, and are going to be picking this one up, it definitely doesn't slack in its physical presentation. It comes in a in an attractive picture cover with full-color inner sleeves as well. It also includes the CD copy inside, as well as a signed copy of the booklet. And you're sent a free download when you place the order. It couldn't be any more convenient or stylish. So while it feels like we're just treading water, they've still given it first class treatment, which bodes well for his next masterpiece down the line.

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