Record: The Neverlutionaries (Polychromatic Records, 2021)
Write what is in your heart and stay true to who you are. I’m not singing from my ego as I once did. Music is very sacred to me and I feel you have to honor it by letting it come from a real place inside of you.
Christopher Harold Wells
Some recording artists appear, and their arrival is so filled with a sense of a burning heart-felt longing to connect at the center of their efforts, with all their energy and resources and drive brought to bear, it becomes impossible to take your eyes off of them.
Christopher Harold Wells with his new solo band, The Neverlutionaries (and their eponymously titled debut LP), is such an artist, and this is such a record. Recorded at San Francisco’s influential and storied Hyde Street Studios, every track is a deluge of classic-rock riffs and DNA. The fusion of so many styles dazzles and fascinates even as we search for labels to attach to each song. Sincere lyrics strive to express a deep sense of life’s moments of confusing isolation and universal loneliness. In fact, there’s a rush of so many ideas and explosive emotions that sparks fly in every direction. There’s even a sense of unconstrained joy in having these players — some who are friends from past musical outings — in the perfect space to create what should be a group of perfect songs.
Here’s the challenge: what if a record is so energizing in its aspirations and passion, yet it falls short on some aspects of its creation, how should we react to such an artistic venture? There’s something in the record’s sound and singer’s voice, something plaintive and searching, even as the lyrics fail to reach the level of epiphany we know must be there, in the room of its making. It has to be there.
And this is the paradox. Mr. Wells is clearly a journeyman songwriter and performer. For this reason, his new record is a stunning achievement of execution and delivery. There is indeed an honest spiritual quality to his quest, which he has spoken of in his press materials. If this record has anything that’s holding it back, it’s the sense that the lyrics are too easy, allowing the listener to almost fill in the lines before they arrive. The studio production and craft are so fine that the opportunity to share in an emotional epiphany alongside the songwriter slips our grasp. As high as we fly, we’re not allowed in. So, a second kind of longing appears for the listener: the longing to connect as strongly as the songwriter for the center of the life experiences he’s sharing.
Wells’s debut record, therefore, remains an elusive 12-track exploration of styles and textures, the beginning of a journey that will, no doubt, evolve into more records with a deeper sense of mission and universality. The disorienting combinations of technique and lyricism will also, in time, come together and the songwriter will find ways to bring us more immediately into his narrative.
Of course, it’s natural for a debut record to appear without every idea and sense of identity on display. That’s the task of a debut record: to mark the start of the adventure. For this reason, “The Neverlutionaries” remains an intriguing mystery. There’s no question Christopher Harold Wells has set himself a bold task: to take to the road and become the songwriter he was born to be. There will be epiphanies for fans, just not yet. This makes Wells an artist to watch. Jack Kerouac wrote that the road doesn’t change, it’s we who change as we travel it. Sometimes the most complex human experiences and desire require the most direct, simplified paths for others to visualize and share.
“The Neverlutionaries” is a courageous and ambitious attempt to make a start at what will be an engaging journey over time. For now, the horizon remains just out sight for us, the listeners, but won’t be out of reach for long.
The Neverlutionaries (2021)
Track 1: Ticking Away
Track 2: Ariana
Track 3: Hopped Up On Crazy
Track 4: As It Burns…
Track 5: Everybody’s Losing Their Minds
Track 6: Precious Eyes
Track 7: Save Yourself
Track 8: Ill Equation
Track 9: Stardusted
Track 10: Unconditionally
Track 11: Stumble
Track 12: 69 Ellis Street Stomp (Bonus Track)