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Not much to love with Never Shout Never

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In his debut LP, acoustic pop musician Never Shout Never asks the age-old question, “What is love?”

Unfortunately, a better question for this album might be, “What is there to love?”

Originally from Joplin, Missouri, Never Shout Never is the moniker for 18-year-old Christofer Drew. He’s been performing and recording EPs since September 2007. He originally got his start online via Myspace.

Now, two and a half years and five EPs later, “What is Love?” is Drew’s mainstream debut. As much as I hate to say it, I’m not incredibly impressed.

The album starts off with an all-too-formulaic call for change in “Love is Our Weapon.” Unless you’re one of those people who’s been following Never Shout Never since his EP days — in which case you’re probably not going to enjoy this review very much — this is your first impression of Christofer Drew.

Unfortunately, the impression you’re getting is: nasally, juvenile, overly earnest, and, with lines like “pissy little problems,” more than a little bit whiny.

The next few songs aren’t much better. There’s “Jane Doe,” the tale of a girl Drew finds beautiful —“Fo’ sho” — whose name he wants to know, and “Can’t Stand It,” with lines like “super duper cute,” or its look-at-me-I’m-cursing derivative, “super f***ing cute.”

At this point, Drew goes from juvenile and earnest to an angsty teenager who “doesn’t belong” and is doing his best to act older and cooler than he really is to impress you. It’s hard to justify listening to the album any further.

It’s around track six, “California,” when you start to get a glimmer that something better might be on the horizon. Here, unexpectedly, Drew gets a little less whiny, the lyrics get a little less juvenile, and the song doesn’t seem much different than any traditional pop tune.

But the title track (and lead single) is the real surprise. After six tracks about love as a weapon, love without a name, and love lost, I’ve been wondering: to Christofer Drew, what is love?

It turns out he doesn’t know either — but he’s not looking at himself to try to find the answer. Rather, the song is a reflective, mature look at his parents’ relationship, which is in danger of falling apart.

Ironically, this is the point at which my impression of Never Shout Never begins to improve. This song shows there’s more to him than the teen pop persona that reigns over the majority of the album.

Better yet, the album closes with another look at “The Past,” a nostalgic trip through his childhood that takes the earnest tone of his earlier songs and makes it thoughtful rather than jarringly saccharine. It leaves me wanting more of this quarter of the album — but this is where the album ends, only a little over 20 minutes in.

All in all, the album as a whole is a failure. The first five songs are pieces of teen pop angst that seem to be catering directly to the under-16 female indie crowd – and under-16 might be generous.

We get to see Drew’s more mature side in the final three songs, and it’s greatly appreciated after the beginning of “What is Love?” If the rest of the album were like this, I’d be behind it in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, it’s not. I can get behind the title track, and I can get behind Never Shout Never as a potential force sometime in the future, but that’s about it.

So what’s to love about “What is Love?” The hope that Never Shout Never gets a chance to try again next time, and the potential that this artist has if he can stick to substance and steer clear of “super duper cute.”

If you disagree, or want to check out Never Shout Never for yourself, you’ll get your chance this spring when Drew comes to The Rave April 11. The show is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and tickets start at $15.

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