Never Got Caught: Popping the Clutch

Immediately notable for their opening stint of tour dates with Clutch and their connections to ‘90s Boston outfit Tree – namely brothers Bryan and Bill Hinkley on guitar/vocals and drums – the two-guitar four-piece Never Got Caught bears some resemblance to Tree’s post-hardcore crunch, but is really more rock based, and their debut full-length, Creepshow (released through their own They Want More imprint), is possibly the smoothest-sounding record I’ve ever heard Andrew Schneider produce. Opener “Anyway” gives a mistaken impression of what’s to come with hip-sounding Wolfmother-style vocals over decidedly meh riffing, utilizing none of the Tim Sult-style start-stop groove that appears so much on the album. It’s under two minutes long, but it’s not doing any favors as a first look at what Never Got Caught have to offer.

Fortunately, “Allison” is there as the second track to give much more of an indication of Never Got Caught’s approach. Bill’s drumming runs smoothly across the toms of his kit during the verses and shortly, a change into more lively, start-stop riffing leads to a repeat of the memorable chorus. The interplay between Bryan and Dave Ward on guitar and vocals is seamless here and throughout, the Helmeted crunch of “Slippin’ Out,” on which Clutch frontman Neil Fallon guests on vocals. Yes, the Clutch links are many, both sonically and practically, but Never Got Caught do still come out of Creepshow as their own band. Even “Slippin’ Out” is more aggressive than anything Clutch has done in years, whatever other comparisons you’d want to make. “Saving it Up” puts bassist Paul Dallaire in the lead, with a funky lead line that drives the song forward into some unexpected turns.

“Charlotte I” is one of Creepshow’s most memorable and individual moments. Never Got Caught slow the pace from the upbeat rock they’ve been touting so far and close out side A with a slower feel that loses no tension thanks to staccato guitar notes thrown under the overdriven bass that forms the foundation of the track. Bill has no problem adjusting his playing, accenting the chunkier feel with crashes and some well-paced snare hits over the song’s break. As way is given to the acoustic-led “Parasite,” one is reminded both that Never Got Caught have more tricks up their sleeve than the standard riff-fest and that the Hinkley brothers cut their teeth in the ‘90s. Something about the arrangement and placement of the track fits almost too well – “contrived” is the word I’m looking for, minus the negative connotation – but if it’s well thought out, that’s not a bad thing. “Parasite” is hardly the high point of the album, but it serves its purpose well.

Hinkley and Ward’s guitars are smooth and charmingly fuzzy on “Give it Away,” which serves as an example of how straightforward songwriting, given a few extra flourishes (Dallaire has a couple choice bass fills), can really stand out on an album. Masterfully catchy and mid-paced, the song is radio length at 3:34 but easy to lose yourself in nonetheless. You could compare the cascading riff of “Bad Idea” to Clutch again, but frankly, by the time it comes around, the album is mostly over and I’m tired of doing so. Does it sound like Clutch? Yeah, but so do a ton of other songs by a ton of other bands. It’s a passable song, not the best on Creepshow, but not the worst either. If I said it could have been on From Beale St. to Oblivion, you’d counter with, “Well, you know, Bryan Hinkley helped write a couple songs on that album,” and you’d be right, and I’d have no comeback, so the conversation would be over. You win.

Nonetheless, I prefer “You Said It,” which blends that style with some of Never Got Caught’s own musings. Schneider’s production, though only mentioned once so far in this review, factors in huge as regards the overall sound and feel of the record, most especially in the drums. On “You Said It,” the four-piece sound crisp and clear, just hinging on commercial but never really touching it. Basically, Creepshow just a smooth-sounding rock record. It gets off to a rough start but picks itself up almost immediately, and has more than a few instances that make it definitely worth checking out, closer “Charlotte II” being yet another, echoing the pace of its predecessor at the end of the album’s first half, and capping off Never Got Caught’s debut with a thickened groove that reaches toward seven minutes. Chances are it won’t be my album of the year, but there’s no denying the well-composed song structures and solidified pop feel on Creepshow, both of which work in the context of Never Got Caught’s heavy approach. Were they going to work with Schneider again, I might like to hear a rougher production, but that’s a personal preference and you may not feel the same. In any case, the debut is worth checking out if you’re looking for well done professional rock. It might feel overdone at times, but on repeat listens, Creepshow proves to be cooked just enough.

Never Got Caught on MySpace

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply