REVIEW: Next To Nothing – ‘Stories We’ve Never Told’

next to nothing

Artist: Next To Nothing
Album: Stories We’ve Never Told
Genre: Pop rock

Ask anyone who was into underground music between 2005 and 2008 what a Fueled By Ramen band sounds like, and the answer will probably involve smooth, soaring melodies, clever lyrics, and energetic pop-punk-influenced instrumentals. The scene was exploding on the strength of its two biggest breakout releases, Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree and Panic! At the Disco’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, and it seemed like snarky pop rock was set to be the norm for some time. Of course, trends change, and the typical pop punk sound today isn’t at all what it was five years ago, but the Fueled By Ramen sound is alive and well in Smithsburg, MD quintet Next To Nothing.

The group’s debut full-length, Stories We’ve Never Told, is full of the punchy rhythms and catchy, infectious melodies that defined that golden age of pop rock. The chorus of “Nothing From the Start” soars over a sharp guitar lead, and the excellent use of dual vocals in “Be Everything” and “Park Slope 8th & 8th” recalls the best of early Mayday Parade. Unfortunately, Stories We’ve Never Told also brings to mind some parts of my mix CDs from 2006 that I would rather have forgotten. The stilted vocal delivery in the verses of “Misery” is straight out of a Cute Is What We Aim For song, although, to his credit, frontman Keller Nigh sounds more like Real Friends’ Dan Lambton than Shaant Hacikyan. The worst offender, however, is the dance-infused “The Way You Do.” The all-too-familiar autotuned vocals in the verse are too noticeable to be overlooked but not quite prominent enough to be a clear artistic choice. The effect is right in line with the rest of the aforementioned FBR scene, but it sounds out of place on a pop punk song in 2013, when there is a bigger premium on honesty in music than ever before.

Lyrically, songs on Stories We’ve Never Told are largely about being on the receiving end of a breakup. The right songwriter could make a modern classic out of the anger, desperation, and sadness that Nigh is trying to convey, but the songs on Stories lack the personal connection and passion necessary to set them apart from the pack. “This Is Not a Love Story,” for instance, falls back on clichéd, generic lines like, “I guess the worst part is you’re in someone else’s arms” and “Why does everything remind me of you? Why can’t my memory just let it go?” which fall flat without more vivid descriptions of the situations in question. Worse still, songs like “The Summer You Left For San Francisco” display a narrow, entitled perspective on relationships. For example, the line, “I just want to know how all those other boys feel knowing they’re just there to replace me,” assumes that the song’s persona is the gold standard of partners and ignores the ex’s ability to move on. It comes across as self-centered and off-putting, the kind of thing that would get on my nerves if it came from a friend, and it sounds no better in a song. When it comes down to it, the world doesn’t need another desperate boy with a guitar, or at least another one without the songwriting chops to offer something refreshing or particularly intense to the genre.

If there’s a nostalgia-fueled market for bands that capture the best and worst of the mid-2000s Fueled By Ramen sound with no reservations, Next To Nothing pretty much have it cornered. I’m not sure there is, however, and outside of that, Stories We’ve Never Told is pop rock without many twists and turns. It’s enjoyable for a spin or two, but there isn’t much to dig into below the surface. Of course, that also means there’s room for improvement, and if Next To Nothing can broaden their songwriting scope while hanging onto the energy that they hint at on Stories, they could have a bright future ahead of them.

SCORE: 5.5/10
Review written by: Troy Sennett

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.