It has admittedly not been a banner year for one-man-band-turned-actual-band Never Shout Never. Barely a year has passed since the notorious interview with Bryan Star—you know, the one where frontman Christofer Drew Ingle (who later admitted to taking acid prior to the interview) told him off, called him a “joke” and made him cry, and bled a gob of Facebook fans and Twitter followers over the fallout. His arrest for marijuana use later that day didn’t help matters much, either, and it seems like the band has been playing catch-up ever since.
Those events haven’t stopped Never Shout Never from being remarkably prolific in the studio. A mere eight months after the release of November’s tepidly-recieved Indigo, NSN has dropped another new release this week, Sunflower, coupled with offering a special songwriting workshop and Q&A for fans at each stop at this summer’s Van’s Warped Tour.
Will these measures aid Ingle’s ailing reputation? It remains to be seen, but at the very least, releasing some amazing music would have certainly helped matters. But that’s not really the case with Sunflower, unfortunately.
Oh, there are a few high points. Ingle has built his following with good songwriting and a unique indie-pop sound, and these elements are still present. The tongue-in-cheek “Subliminal Messages” and the folksy “Good Times” and “Knock Knock” were particular standouts for me. But the problem is, there’s not a whole lot about the album to praise beyond these sparse moments. Nothing here really even comes close to the kind of passion and intensity we heard on What Is Love?, the kind of passion that made us NSN fans in the first place. It just feels like an echo of those songs and sounds, and therefore feels more like directionless collection of tunes that sort of sit there, and don’t move the band forward much at all. If I hadn’t been a fan of NSN before listening to this, it wouldn’t have done anything to convince me to become one.
Unlike a lot of folks, I didn’t write off Never Shout Never over that ill-fated interview. Everyone makes mistakes. And to be honest, I’ve heard records that are a lot worse than Sunflower. But at this point in their career, what NSN needed most to get them out of the rut was a high-impact, mind-blowing record that made us forget the past and reminded us of how good this band really can be. Instead, Sunflower feels like a bland record from a band that is still floundering. I want to hear brilliance, but all I hear this time around is wasted opportunity.