Neverever: Angelic Swells

Neverever surely takes its cues from the oldies jukebox, but the group opts for a more free-wheeling, almost punky approach that ensures its debut album doesn’t come off like the aural equivalent of some phony retro ‘50s diner.


Angelic Swells

Label: Slumberland
US Release Date: 2010-05-25
UK Release Date: 2010-05-24

There’s no pussy-footing about it: Neverever loves the sound of the golden oldies from the dawn of rock ‘n roll. Even a brief exposure to the from-Glasgow-to-Los Angeles group’s debut album Angelic Swells will cotton listeners onto the fact that the pair is quite enamored with the sonic hallmarks of late ‘50’s and early ‘60s rock ‘n roll, as demonstrated by the swinging Bo Diddley beats, the trebly guitars, the croon-with-attitude sock-hop melodies of singer Jihae Meek, and even cute little production touches like the “Leader of the Pack”-esque revving motor and speeding tires that kicks off “Young Runaways”. Not that mere revivalism is all there is to be found on Angelic Swells, for Neverever uses its bits and bobs of pop history to fashion an infectious album that indulges in retro affectations without being stodgy or kitschy.

Neverever’s mix of ‘50s rock ‘n roll, ‘40s vocal pop melodies, and ‘60s girl-group production touches is prepared with the intent of applying it to heady, roller coaster tales of love lost and love denied. Throughout Angelic Swells, the band is inspired and captivated by the experience that is young love, where every little crush and heartbreak feels like the end of the world.

Adding to the melodrama, a good deal of the album’s track list references death and/or physical violence. With her bold, tuneful voice, Jihae Meek delves into tales of incest (“Blue Genes”), murder (“Teardrop Tattoo”), and drowning in the ocean as one mourns a departing lover (“Underwater Ballet”), assertively delivering them in hook after indelible hook. That girl could be singing listings from a phone book and I’d listen to it, particularly if she brought along those swooning backing harmonies with her.

Certainly, such a reverence for teen dreams of pop past runs the risk of becoming overly precious. Neverever avoids this pitfall by making every track as fun a romp as possible, regardless of how much of a downer the lyrics can be. “Coconut Shampoo” kicks off with a jittery New Wave-inspired riff and progressively builds in anticipation of Jihae’s wordless chorus, which is immediately followed by a tension-wracked zigzag guitar line. Opening with snatches of gunshots and scampering horses, “Cowboys and Indians” indulges in the iconography provided by its title, buttressed by rumbling drums and war cries that would make Adam Ant proud. A stop-start arrangement and judicious use of handclaps make “Bitch Boys” feel like some lost AM radio classic, while later, the group is able to lighten up the “I’m going to jail for killing you” narrative of “Teardrop Tattoo” by turning the phrase “olly-olly-oxen-free” into a ridiculously catchy hook. Throw in a cover of the Plimsouls’ “Now” and you’ve got yourself a darn good half-hour listen.

Personally, I’ve always found it hard to warm up to artistic works that are besotted with the standard cultural hallmarks of mid-20th century America, for they frequently come bundled with a sense of tidiness and innocence that always rings false to a history-buff like myself. Neverever takes its cues from the oldies jukebox, but the group opts for a more free-wheeling, almost punky approach that ensures Angelic Swells doesn’t come off like the aural equivalent of some phony retro ‘50s diner. Not to mention that hooks like these would be welcome in any decade.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.