Never Enough: Dead Set on Destruction . . .
This debut CD from Never Enough documents the local hardcore punk quintet’s first two years, culling 27 songs from a 7-inch, a 2004 live show, a 2003 demo, and six serrated razor blades from an upcoming release. Contemporary hardcore is as single-minded and lockstepping as political punditry—and just as devoted to the vehemently navel-gazing first-person—and while Never Enough’s tightly wound energy and manic thrust feels same-old HC at first punch, it leaves a slightly more interesting bruise. The group musters this vibe by making HC as traditional as it comes: quadruple-time drum fire, bass and guitar riff sprints, and sore-throat scream-speak from Tony Pence. It’s mid-1980s metal-tinted hardcore—more Cro-Mags than Void—wedded to an aggressive passive-aggression that’s either Sahara-dry sarcasm or an uptightness heretofore confined only to Christian punk. Judging by the songs (and the live set), nothing pisses off Never Enough more than preachy straight-edge bands, preachy Christian bands, preachy people, or people with, you know, opinions that the band doesn’t share.
In short, NE is pissed off. Straight-edge and X-tian hating is nothing new in American HC, but the finesse with which NE delivers its rage is almost high art. The defensive rant is HC’s stock and trade, and Pence barks some textbook examples while coating them in a strangely arm’s-length distance: “They want to see me fall and fail, pick at this skin so thin,” his vocal chords bleed in “An Interlude,” backing off HC’s traditional accusation a few lines later with the self-aware, “Pick apart my life and these stupid songs, put me in my place against this wall.”
The effect is almost comic, and that nobody ever so much as cracks a smile throughout Destruction makes it an arrestingly compelling endurance race. Religion in HC and in general gets taken to task on the album; the CD tray itself blithely claims that Never Enough “support the atheist lifestyle”—a statement of purpose that’s either the product of being young enough to believe that atheism isn’t just another theology or so snide it looks earnest.
It’s a tightrope the band walks even in its most superficially trite HC moments, such as “Quit This,” the tirade against everything pills and bottle reliance. Pence opens with, “Constant pain and paranoia/ lack of sleep bringing on euphoria,” the sort of Travis Bickle myopia that twentysomething HC guys endlessly re-create. Pence follows it up with, “Why do I hold on to this meaningless shit?/ To the words of some assholes who gave up and quit?,” a distancing statement of such vague, blanket rejection that it makes the song’s point of view slippery; one never quite knows at what NE is so pissed off. The band itself never says, an ambiguity that makes Never Enough feel like either a radically conformist propaganda revivalist or an Angry Samoans-qua-Frogs level of commitment to the facade that’s truly inspired. And that it’s impossible to tell which side the band falls on makes Never Enough almost sublime.