Review Summary: In Never Out is maddeningly safe, never really pushing the volume past Eight when pg.lost are so, so good at Eleven.
Love or hate pg.lost’s debut record It’s Not Me, It’s You!
, it’s impossible to deny this fact: pg.lost were not afraid to go for broke. Every song on It’s Not Me, It’s You!
churned towards the grandest climax imaginable that, whether it failed or succeeded musically, was fuck
. It didn’t matter that almost all of the great tracks were built off simple transitions between IV and V chords or that the band wasn’t really doing anything original at all because when it came together, there was nothing more beautiful. It was exciting, interesting, pretty much everything the genre "pros” have been aiming to do for most of the entire decade. Even though half the record was fairly run-of-the-mill, the whole thing gelled triumphantly on this premise: pg.lost were trying, God damn it.
And on In Never Out
, they’re still trying. But something is clearly different. Something about In Never Out
is neutered, lacking the punch or, for lack of a better term, magic
of pg.lost’s previous album. The formula’s still there- themes evolve into louder themes in the conventional post rock context- but on In Never Out
, it’s disconcertingly average. While it’s not like It’s Not Me, It’s You!
was particularly original, at least it had gusto, some feel of complete indulgence that allowed the band to crank with complete abandon. Not on In Never Out
however; Whereas on It’s Not Me, It’s You!
, pg.lost swung for the fences and damned the consequences, the band that gives us In Never Out
is a decidedly more patient hitter, willing to take a few pitches and walk if that’s what’s presented to him, and while of course he’s more consistent, let’s face it: he’s much less exciting to watch.
This is the ultimate criticism of In Never Out
: its maddeningly safe. The record goes by without much substance, never really pushing the volume past Eight when pg.lost are so, so good at Eleven. Perhaps the band approached In Never Out
with a mind for subtlety, but subtle is not pg.lost, and instead of pummeling soaring apexes, we get mild mannered peaks. Constantly, In Never Out
hints that something
is coming and nothing really ever does. “Prahanien” opens fittingly in the pg.lost mode; the bell tone guitar (strikingly reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky’s “First Breath After Coma,” make of that what you will) promises something massive and a mid-track power chord theme hints that there’s something beautiful and punishing on its way. But as the track dies out, it becomes sadly apparent that that power chord theme was
the climax, leaving a disappointingly dry aftertaste.
Unfortunately, this blue-balling is a common thread throughout In Never Out
, as pg.lost tease and touch, but never go all the way. By far the worst offender on the album is “Crystalline,” whose entire ten minute run time is assigned to imply bone-crushing fury on the horizon, which it does masterfully, but it never satisfies. Instead the song grows and grows and then stops awkwardly, as if pg.lost were purposely trying to hold back. “Gomez” does the opposite, inverting the formula by giving away all the marbles at the beginning then plods along at the same volume for a way-too-long twelve minutes. Both songs can be described as awkward at best, but the awkwardness feels almost like choice because the desired destination of both tracks is so heavily implied that to avoid them completely listens almost like experimentation. For a band who so adeptly mastered how to spin post rock conventions in exciting new ways on one album, pg.lost either generically use or curiously bastardize them here, and it just doesn’t work in the context of a potential post rock heavyweight trying to contend with the big guys.
Of course, this shouldn’t imply that In Never Out
is a terrible record, because it isn’t really. It’s just stale, committing the cardinal sin of blandness. There are moments where pg.lost remember some of the magic they captured on It’s Not Me, It’s You!
For example, “Heart of Hearts” is a fantastic mixture of the rock abandon of “Jonathan” with the conventions of “Pascal’s Law,” and the slower tempos of “Still Alright” recall the buildup of “The Day Shift” with the starry lead guitar of “Maquina.” Hell, even the tracks criticized in this review have their moments, but as a whole In Never Out
misses just what exactly made It’s Not Me, It’s You!
work. pg.lost just seem unwilling to aim for the heights they hit on their last album, preferring the slow, trudging loudness to the sudden outburst of euphoria, and though it works sometimes, the results overall are too ordinary. In Never Out
just reaffirms that It’s Not Me! It’s You
was truly a special album, and that pg.lost don’t quite realize why.