30 August 2011

DOWNLOAD: Neutral Agreement - I Bet You Never Thought...

The first time I saw Neutral Agreement was at the Brickhouse in St. Albans around 2002. I had never heard the band before, but I knew they were described by many as Christian pop punk. For someone who is not religious and had grown past said genre of music at that point in my life, I'm sure I approached the show with a sense of cynicism. Over the next half an hour, I bore witness to one of the most energetic, passionate and sincere performance from a local band I had ever seen. The instruments were loud, they sang from their guts and they were tight but still with a sense of improvisation. While they made coordinated jumps, posed with their instruments and fell to their knees like I had seen many bands do, it seemed less contrived. At the end of the show the quartet stopped played, turn toward one another, raised a hand in the air and finished with a song of prayer. Had I not just been shocked by such a powerful performance, the cynic in me would have walked out. Yet I remained, excited to meet the guys in the band, who I saw and photographed a dozens times after. They are guys with whom I became good friends for years after this first performance.
Unfortunately for Neutral Agreement, who were from Hurricane, their live performance was so impressive, any recording couldn't quite do the band justice. I Bet You Never Thought... hints at the band's ability to write a heartfelt punk song with catchy hooks, but doesn't do well to represent the band's spirit and vigor. Following in the footsteps of youthfully sentimental acts Further Seems Forever, Juliana Theory or The Get Up Kids, Neutral Agreement play a brand of rock that is sweet and upbeat yet at times urgent and volatile. Matthew McDowell's untrained vocals ring of characteristics of many late '90s emo-punk bands - at times nasal or off-key but always earnest. While the band's instrumentation certainly matured over the following the year, dual Les Pauls provide an enjoyable crunch, especially on the album's highlight "Five Hours to Elwood."
Neutral Agreement eventually became a three-piece and took on a new style after McDowell moved onto real world obligations. Bassist Matthew Jenkins has continued to run Future Destination Records, which put out the band's albums as well as a number of nationally touring groups. I miss that guy. In fact, I miss all these guys and the sincerity with which they played that few bands from the region could ever touch.

Artist: Neutral Agreement
Album: I Bet You Never Thought...
Year: 2002
For fans of: Further Seems Forever, The Juliana Theory, Get Up Kids

1 comment:

  1. As someone who has played countless shows, been across the country and met hundreds of bands I can say with out a doubt that these guys throughout their line-ups and into their various spin offs have always been the most genuine nicest guys. Raw talent and honesty in everything they did. We played a ton of shows with them. They always gave us a place to stay they always helped out any way they could and they contributed to the various local WV scenes as much as anyone in their hey days. They gave us our first show out of state show and I'm still in contact with some of them today. I'm laughing right now just thinking of the stories. I've always felt they deserved more attention. -Lokie, When Sparks Fly