Since the fateful summer of 2002, I’ve been searching for the perfect pop-punk album. It’s been eleven years, and plenty have come close, but nothing has ever quite hit my high expectations (and need for sweet breakdowns). Could Next To Nothing‘s Stories We’ve Never Told be the ones to do it?
The short answer is, quite frankly, no. Stories We’ve Never Told does absolutely nothing to break the mould – or well, the first half, at least. That first half of the album is reasonably yawn-worthy, sounding like a collection of FUCT-era Fall Out Boy cast-offs, only without Fall Out Boy’s inevitable genius. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all very solid and decently put together, and there’s a couple of moments that elicit a smile; the guitar in the chorus of ‘Nothing From The Start’ is pretty clever, and the dual vocal approach in ‘This Is Not A Love Story’ is quite fun, but for the most part, it just does nothing to thrill.
Thankfully, there’s a bit of a turnaround by the time it gets to ‘Misery’. After a slow lead in, the band launch into an All-American Rejects-esque, heavily 80’s influenced riff-fest that’s actually rather exciting. Then it’s back to the generic ‘Read Between The Lines’ before ‘Take Me Back’ storms in, the pop-punk love story that all the songs on the first half of the record are striving to be. ‘The Summer You Left Me For San Francisco’ slows things down a little bit, with some passionate vocals, a little bit of synth, a lot of heart and some Acceptance-style guitar, and it’s arguably the best song on the album. Finishing on ‘Wish Me Well Into The Night’, a piano-led ballad, was an excellent choice, showcasing a talent that sadly isn’t revealed until too late. Lyrically, there’s a massive improvement too – there’s a lot of saccharine sweet moments that jar, but all of that’s forgotten in the beauty of the final track. It’s all still been done before, but Next To Nothing’s take on the formula finally starts to become their own by the end of it all.
With a little bit of faith and careful attention, Next To Nothing could be a contender. But at present, my quest for the perfect pop-punk record goes on. Wish me luck.
3 out of 5 high fives!