Live Like We're Alive

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The heart-on-the-sleeve plaintiveness of emo has so completely infiltrated other post-punk and indie pop music genres that it really no longer makes sense to try to draw a clean distinction between emo and punk. To the degree that this fact results in indie rock that pays attention to melody and hooks, this is a good thing. To the degree that it results in sharp, heavy rock music that is undermined by breathlessly wimpy vocals, it's a bad thing. On its debut album, Live Like We're Alive, the Tennessee-based Nevertheless manages to offer evidence of both tendencies on : with the help of producer James Paul Wisner, the group generates a sound that is crunchy without being abrasive and dense without being oppressive; every song boasts at least one sharp hook, and the hooks range in obviousness from the whoa-oh-oh singalong chorus of "The Real" to the more subtle layers of backing vocals on the title track. If Joshua Pearson's singing is generally just a little bit too breathy and high-pitched, well, the guitars mostly make up for it. The band's Christian faith does add an occasional blast of saccharine sweetness to the lyrics, which is unfortunate. Their faith itself isn't actually the problem; the problem is their sometimes cloying expressions of it: "Don't stop believing," "It's faith that takes us there," "Run towards the light" -- when your Christian witness starts sounding like the chorus to an REO Speedwagon song, it's time to rethink your lyrical approach. Even with its occasional weaknesses, though, it's hard to imagine anyone who loves tuneful power pop being able to resist this album's significant charms. Recommended.

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