Review Summary: The kind of record that can make you believe in music again
Listening to Never Born, Never Dead
without also taking into account Trophy Scars’ previous EP, Darkness, Oh Hell
, is to rob yourself of an integral part of what makes NB,ND
so perfect. Where Darkness
was a semi-fictional apocalyptic journey through a mans drug addled summer, full of, well, literal darkness with only small handfuls of light, NB,ND
fits perfectly as a companion piece; pondering the cyclic nature of love, existence, and memory, it goes beyond the tunnel vision of Darkness’
scope and creates a large, sweeping concept that exudes a charming sense of hope and thoughtfulness.
Throughout the record, Trophy Scars eschew musical norms and simply do whatever is necessary to bring the album to its full potential. The lyrics are the most obvious example of this: often singer Jerry Jones disregards what someone would consider keeping his lyrics “sane” and goes off the wall with crazy storytelling and silly, but endearing phrases. “Snake Oil” details a man still obsessed with an old flame, and instead of taking itself too seriously approaches a tired cliché with cute wit:
I saw my old lady
Down at the the grocery store
I said "who you buying them groceries for?"
She said "it aint your business no more"
“I don't care
What's his name”
She says "Baby -
You just got yourself to blame."
Elsewhere, the lyrical content ties together the pattern of lovers continually meeting and falling for each other, whether it ends in bliss or venom. “Messengers” takes an interesting twist on the Stagger Lee story, detailing perhaps the first ‘awakening’ our main characters have in regards to one another. However, the most poignant part of the story comes between “Angels” and “Never Dead”, as the band bridges the youthful innocence of puppy love in “Angels” and the climax of their immediately tragic ultimately serene story arc in “Never Dead”, all connected by one of the most PERFECTLY utilized samples I’ve ever heard (Lost fans will flip a ***n and probably cry. No seriously, good chance you‘ll well up a bit. Even if you're not a Lost fan. Probably an equal chance).
Where the concept is the heart and soul of Never Born, Never Dead
, the beauty of the album is in its composition. No single member of the band ever tries to overstep anyone else, and the result is a sound that feels vibrant, lush, and exotic. The album utilizes many different kinds of instrumentation, but none of it is ever shoehorned in, rather they all compliment each other. “Never Dead” is the perfect example, a song that slowly builds until pretty much every instrument Trophy Scars had in studio is playing, but unlike what they may have perhaps done in a past time, everything is being played to compliment and punctuate everyone else. It’s a thing of beauty to hear the emotional (think “Comfortably Numb”-like) guitar solo transition into the dense explosion that ends “Never Dead”.
In the end though, all of that crazy orchestration and songwriting only serves to highlight the simple elegance of Never Born, Never Dead
. Regardless of what the story may be behind the album, regardless of what instruments they use or how they put them together, or even what they may have expressly meant to produce, Never Born, Never Dead
succeeds because it taps into some deeper meaning of what music can be: a sprawling, emotional, spiritual and ambitious work that by not pretending to take itself seriously, becomes so much more honest than 99% of music being put out today.
And if I told you we live forever
Would you ever believe?
I love you so much more than forever
But now it's time for sleep