I'm going to get straight to the point here: this album is absolutely, unbelievably brilliant! This view is completely unbiased, as when I bought the album, I had heard only one Howards Alias song ("Rob Wants You Dead" which is on their previous album "The Chameleon Script" which I am yet to get my grubby hands on), and had no real expectations. However, from the very first listen, it was immediately evident that there is absolutely NO FILLER on "The Answer Is Never" which not only sets it apart as a great album, but is a nice change from many albums (especially when you realise the album is 16 tracks long in over 60mins, very long for an album of this kind of genre).
TRACK BY TRACK:
1. CHASING AMY - Probably the least experimental song on the album, this is nevertheless a great start, with the thrashy intro leading into a top-brass (no pun intended) ska-punk tune, with a cracking bassline. Lyrically, about relationships, but not in a knucklehead pop-punk-band kinda way. Bonus points for the song title, tis a great film too!!! (5/5)
2. THE WEEKEND TRIP - Nice brass-work in this song, a bit jauntier than the previous track, and just as good. The lyrics are concerned with how selfishness prevents progression. (5/5)
3. ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH - A very intelligently written love song, which goes from mellow, clean-guitar parts, to thrashier, punkier movements and back again. (4.5/5)
4. BLOSSOM - According to the liner notes, this is a song about faith, and a good one it is too! Its reasonably fast throughout, with varying heaviness, not quite as original as the preceding tracks though. (4/5)
5. W.O.R.L.D. - This seems to be addressing and ridiculing elitism in the UK "underground" music scene. It is a jumpier, more ska-orientated song, especially in the verses, and the chorus kinda wierd, musically, but in a good way. (4.5/5)
6. UNDERGROUND - Less a ska-punk song, more a mellow(ish) rock song with well complimenting horn parts, and lyrically quite vague. One of the highlights of the album though. (5/5)
7. LOVE LOSS LEARN - Title pretty much explains the lyrics, and this is one of the more catchy songs on the album (well, they're all catchy, but this one especially). It also urges you to be more open minded. The guitar parts in this song, althought not terribly complicated, are particularly good. (5/5)
8. 40 WINKS - One of the slower, more mellow tracks, apparently "a song of despair." One of those kinda songs that is somehow really atmospheric, and the vocal delivery adds to the mood of despair. (5/5)
9. ELIZABETHS SONG - Probably my favourite track overall, this song is against the fashion and trends that the whole world seems to revolve around. It's really well structured, with the start of each verse very mellow and wierd before launching into a funky, danceable ska-rhythm, and a very different sounding outro to the rest of the song. (5/5)
10. JUNE 3RD - Although a very good song, this one (about growing older, i think) is not quite as memorable as some others, although the cool drum fills do come to mind. (4/5)
11. THE GRANDEUR CHALLENGE - This is probably the heaviest track on the album, with an unorthodox time signature and a stabby little guitar riff. I also like the lyrics, which address how wrong the social class system is. (4.5/5)
12. SONG FOR A FRIEND - I love the chorus of this song, right after he repeats "don't slip away..." It's just got something about it, kinda anthemic somehow. Overall a good song. (4.5/5)
13. ADVENT FOR THE ZEALOUS - Like the previous song, the chorus sticks in my head as being really great, but the rest is a little less memorable. The lyrics are about being taken for granted. Again, a good song. (4.5/5)
14-16. THE DROP, THE AWAKENING, THE END - As these songs seem to link up to each other (as shown by the similarity of the titles, and the fact that the artwork in the liner notes follows on, something I will come to later), I will review them as one long track. The three tracks incorporate, between them, pretty much every style of music that the band have used during this album, and some of the best songwriting too (although the lyrics could be read into in many ways, so I won't try to comment on what they are concerned with). An amazing end to an amazing album. (5/5)
One of the most obvious good points about the album is the intelligent yet heartfelt songwriting. There is not one lyric that comes across as "cheesy" or somehow out of place; all the songs are extremely well written.
Something else I haven't mentioned in great detail is the musicianship displayed on this album. The drums are consistently amazing, as Jevon adds maniacal drum fills in frequently among the interesting and varied beats he uses.
The bass is clearly audible (I say this because, on many albums, production seems to relegate the bass to very background), and Steve rarely sticks to simple basslines, prefering to keep things more interesting (I was dismayed at the lack of Howards Alias bass tabs on MX, I might try and tab some myself sometime!).
The horns are more intricate and more involved in the songs than with your typical ska bands (but then HA aren't your typical ska band!), and Nick's trombone flourishes are often at the forefront of many of the songs.
The guitar parts are quite intricate throughout, and the fact that more often that not, Matt has his guitar on the clean channel, seems to add a certain quality to the songs, rather than constant distorted chugga-chugga riffs (although distortion is also used, to good effect).
Matt's vocals are very distinctive, and fit the songs perfectly, whether he's singing softly, or shouting it.
Another element of this album (something which most reviewers on this site tend to ignore, i don't know why) is the fantastic liner note booklet. The artwork is amazing, with a chalk drawing of the band, and a different chalk picture for each song, all of which perfectly capture the mood of the song. It is all printed on non-shiny black paper which makes it look even better.
Overall, I'd give this album 5 out of 5, and urge anyone who admires original rock music of kind to give this album a go (but please don't just download it, as it flows as a whole too well for it to be appreciated in pieces, and you'd miss out on the artwork too!), as there really is something for everyone on here.