While the New Amsterdams are a Get Up Kids offshoot, the band doesn't belong to the same dreaded indie subgenre as its emo-core parent. Instead, songwriter Matthew Pryor's side project has plenty in common with that harbinger to all things sad-core, Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers album.
Never You Mind evokes the same world Alex Chilton wrote about, in which the singer's fears are made real during nighttime's tiny doom. The songs are not exactly for the death-obsessed, nor are they for life lovers; they're straight-up, middle-of-the-night stuff, with melodies veering from the manic and mind-racing to the quiet and meditative. "Every Double Life" is a simple acoustic guitar-and-voice number, constructed like the type of alternapop song that, after a quiet verse or two, brings in a crashing grunge chorus; the song's twist is that (mercifully) the grunge never comes. On "Lonely Hearts," Pryor goes electric and adds percussion, but the song and its refrain still exist in the spatial void where the most ethereal Chilton and Lou Barlow songs live.
"Proceed With Caution" actually employs the emo/grunge formula (quiet/rocked-up) but strips it down, with Pryor's appealingly whiny and yearning voice at the fore and a subtle organ bit laid underneath. Feedback isn't really a concept except on the heavy "Goodbye," which also has a contrived rawk 'n' roll false start. "Idaho" is deep in dragged-through-the-mud melancholy, with its cry-me-a-river chorus, elegant pacing and lush harmonies; "When We Two Parted" is similarly gut-wrenching. The production -- somewhere beyond lo-fi and studied in its minimalism -- is clean but certainly not pro.
While it's easy to hear the topical and melodic appeal of a cover of the Afghan Whigs' "Make Me Change My Mind," its inclusion on the album is superfluous. By starting over with alternative rock's antecedents, Pryor's songs stand tall, and offer hope that there might just be something salvageable in this emo-core monster after all.
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