If Pittsboro's The Never lacks anything, that thing is certainly not ambition. Over the course of its 16-track, 59-minute eponymous debut, The Never (which turned more than one head for over a half-decade as The B-Sides) tackles the greats, funneling blue-eyed soul inspired by The Beach Boys ("Hearts in My Eyes") into Queen song structures ("The Astronaut") built on a Weezer-meets-Pavement look on love, life and the crushes that make both miserable (tracks one through 16, with scant exception). This quartet does it convincingly, too: pitch-perfect, four-part harmonies pique the songs here with a vocal dexterity uncommon to the indie universe, though Noah Smith's on-target guitar solos give the numbers their rock 'n' roll validity. The melodies are memorable and compelling, and John Plymale's engineering is that of a consumate expert.
The thing this band--or rather, this album--lacks is the belief that it can make a rock 'n' roll masterpiece that is not more than a showcase of its own sundry styles and influences. That is, there is no cohesive thread here. Interludes separate a good deal of the Queen-to-Beach Boys shuffling, slowing the action and preventing this disc from going far enough fast enough. The opening "True or False" is reminiscent of the better Weezer pop that didn't make The Green Album, though its successor, "Bigger Than Jared," brings the potty-mouthed weight of Ben Folds to bear on a classic rock anthem, bombastic guitar solo in tow. The adroit eclecticism is as flattering as it is impressive, but it ultimately lends itself to the notion that this band had rather show its audience its nifty tool kit of paint brushes and watercolors than paint the perfect picture it is capable of rendering. Still, it's a pretty impressive kit, and The Never is a standout entree.