Review Summary: "What is this that you keep selling me, boy?" - Claudio Sanchez.
I propose to speak about the Extended Play (EP), though I am aware that this is a potentially perilous venture. The realm of the EP is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of fantastical art and songs can be found, and most if not all serve an important part of their respective bands' canon by way of further detailing their growth and development as a musical artist.
Even less clear however, is the true purpose of their release: although many EPs are released by bands as a treat for their fans, the concept of attracting a larger fanbase or even obtaining (additional) profit is in all likelihood the largest driving force behind their creation. The latter motivation is particularly popular amongst record companies as most EPs can be quickly and competently cobbled together from recently rejected B-sides, outtakes, and demo tapes (Death Cab For Cutie's The Open Door utilized all three) - or even pilfered from the numerous live recordings scattered throughout a band's history (a la Metallica's Six Feet Down Under EP).
Which brings me nicely onto the subject of Coheed and Cambria's Neverender 12%.
Released in the first quarter of 2009, Neverender 12% is an exclusive live EP which was released only at Hot Topic stores; it contains six tracks, all of which were taken from the (then-upcoming) Neverender live DVD set from Columbia Records. The Neverender Tour itself took place for four consecutive nights in each of London, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago; at each of these venues, Coheed and Cambria would play one of their four studio albums in full each night, thus telling the story of The Amory Wars in sequence. Material from the performance in Terminal 5, New York appears on Neverender 12%.
The EP clocks in at just under a half-hour and contains an even spread of songs from the Coheed and Cambria back-catalogue of the time, with Fear Through The Eyes of Madness and In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 being the best-represented with two songs each. Performance-wise, the band is near-faultless on this EP - all of the six live recordings on the EP have a certain rawness and vitality which was not readily available on the original studio versions. Particularly memorable are the performances of "The Willing Well II" and "Gravemakers & Gunslingers", the latter of which begins with both a crowd clap and a massive explosion of sound near the end of the first minute as the New York four-piece swing into action to loud and enthusiastic cheers from the audience.
Indeed, much of the credit on the album should go to the legions of fans singing devotedly along with Claudio Sanchez and erupting at all the right moments. To my unending amazement, they also help fill in for the band's vocalist when he pauses for breath ("A Favor House Atlantic") and somehow contrive to keep a few of the songs tight and true to their original studio recordings by providing some incredible backing vocals ("Three Evils"); if I didn't know any better, I'd argue that the crowd may be legally obligated to co-billing and a share of the profits from the sale of this EP.
Yet, if one takes a step back and analyzes this release in full context, its overall value as a purchase begins to - in truth - decrease rather rapidly. Although the performances - and by extension, the songs themselves - are excellent, little to no thought or care seems to have gone into the preparation of this release. The selection of songs is haphazard at best (only one of the songs is a real single - "A Favor House Atlantic"), and - most damningly - they are presented in no significant order. The latter is particularly scarring, as the very point of the Neverender concerts was to detail the progression of The Amory Wars - treating the sixteen shows in this manner certainly doesn't do its epic concept any justice at all. There is also the cast-iron argument that there is no material here which cannot be found on the Neverender concert DVD itself.
All told, Neverender 12% - while a competent enough studio production - ends up being a product that is good at providing some hype for the Neverender DVD release and not much else. The aftertaste that one gets after listening to this record is unfortunately that of having been short-changed; one really wishes that Columbia Records (or the band, for that matter) had put more time and effort into compiling a release that would have meant something to Coheed and Cambria fans the world over. As I alluded to at the start of this review, it really doesn't take that much to put together a decent extended play: a couple of unreleased B-sides is really all it takes; heck, even a few alternate recordings taken at different venues on the Neverender Tour would suffice. Despite the numerous opportunities that it had to become a release of value, Neverender 12% stays well and truly on its preset course - that of becoming an EP that's compellingly easy to pass over, which is a real shame in every sense of the word.
Recommended for Coheed and Cambria die-hards/completists only.
Author's Note: This review may also be found on my personal blog (at the address http://snuffleupagush.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/synergy/).