REVIEW: Boys No Good – Never Felt Better

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Artist: Boys No Good
Album: Never Felt Better
Genre: Rock

Boys No Good have already scored themselves a legion of fans courtesy of tours with the likes of The Wonder Years and New Found Glory, and those endeared by their 2010 demo will find much to love in Never Felt Better. As a debut full length, it’s good without being exceptional, exhibiting plenty of flair and promise though sticking a little too closely to its roots to truly make an impact.

It opens impressively with a 35 second intro entitled “Cutting All Ties.” This is a sudden explosion of boisterous guitars and harmonies, laying thorough foundations for the rest of the record. “Bold City Tigers” picks up where this leaves off. It’s an excellent song, with relentless music and feverish drums keeping everything ticking over at a steady pace. It makes for quite a pleasing contrast actually, as the music is quite poppy and bright and feels very accessible, but the hint of hardcore, heavier elements in the vocals gives it a wider and more instant appeal than your average pop-punk musings. “Buried At Sea” sets itself apart then with a heavy and marked bass line. The vocals are more intensive and the tone more cautionary with an edge of malice to it. As a shorter track, it works well as a fierce burst of intent, though it revamps itself halfway through with a soaring vocal and guitar combination muting the immediate impact of the bassline and taking things in a poppier direction.

Further along, “Jeremy Drinks Bleach” also impresses – the music is eased slightly and a more prominent role afforded the singing. The drums aren’t quite as frenetic as they have been thus far and the guitars play a sharp and complementary part instead of drowning everything in ferocious noise. There are little thrills and flashes of solos here and there to spice things up a little but otherwise, it’s quite smooth and simplistic and actually more likeable because of its straightforward approach. “Crash and Burn” takes this familiar, feelgood tone and deftly mixes it with some gaudier elements. The verses are relatively unspectacular, but the chorus intensifies everything with exhilarated percussion and guitars so that the song almost changes tone entirely. It’s a tad overbearing at times but for the most part, rigorous and engaging, the gang vocals a particularly fitting addition.

“Serenity Now” is another shorter, yet all the more striking song, demonstrating the band’s innate ability to get it markedly right when dealing with a shorter running time. Where the longer songs can sometimes lose their fluidity, the shorter ones work very well as fleeting and dramatic interludes which exemplify the energy and drive of their instruments. This one further takes a reckless approach that fits well with the slightly OTT nature of the lyrics. “Cut Your Heart Out” is an example of how length can undermine clarity – it opens heavy and dramatic with quite an acerbic tone, but musically it strays and it’s not particularly distinguishable amidst the other tracks. Further, the mixing is a little under-par, as the guitars are too forceful and almost drown out the vocals. It’s a good song, but it lacks the coherence to fully succeed.

The album ends on a dual high with two somewhat contrasting songs. “End of a Good Thing” is relatively unremarkable but does feature a fabulous gang vocal style breakdown right in the middle that puts a whole new perspective on the track. It feeds into an ambitious solo that blazes a gorgeous trail right through the midsection, so for all that the parts of the song bookending this one blast of brilliance don’t do much for me, the glimpse of life in the middle is enough to make it rewarding. “Rosemary’s Children” then takes a curiously angsty approach to close the record, given the upbeat note on which its predecessor ends. There’s a clear sense of anger at the off and the lighter, cleaner vocal is somewhat bittersweet. That said, the music is at fault again here, drowning out the singing and diminishing the authenticity of the song – if the sentiment was given space to breathe instead of being suffocated by the incessant drumming, it would have a more emphatic impact. As it is, one can discern something heartfelt, but not the means to engage with it.

All that aside however, this is a very enjoyable album. It has everything that makes pop punk amazing to those who love it (and in my case, annoying cos I hate it) but for the most part it manages to deftly sidestep the pitfalls. It’s sure of itself and well-executed, though it does let itself down with some poor mixing and occasionally insufficient vision. Very good for a debut though, and well worth your time.

Score: 7/10
Review written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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