Anberlin made a significant impression on rock music in 2003 with their impressive Tooth & Nail Records debut, Blueprints For The Black Market. Their brand of passionate modern rock with relative songwriting made Anberlin easy to like. Their follow-up, Never Take Friendship Personal, doesn't stray too far from the groundwork they laid with Blueprints, carrying the torch forward.
At first listen at a few cuts on Never Take..., it sounds like the band has stuck to the same formula as they use their catchy, hook-driven rock to serve as a vehicle to further explore the world of relationships. Songs like "A Day Late," a lament over missing a golden opportunity to be with someone they care for, follow the same format musically as their hit "Foreign Language." But further examination reveals its greatest difference, and the charm of Never Take Friendship Personal - its more melodic approach to songwriting. Stephen Christian's vocals have never sounded better and, while his style and delivery is often the same, he does stretch them from time to time. The title track and "The Feel Good Drag" take a more aggressive approach to their signature take on the emo-flavored rock genre (even including a few screams).
Lyrically, Never Take... strays even further from any spirituality their debut possessed. The album's focus is solely relationships, examining different and often unique takes on them. While a hint of spirituality may be found in "Paperthin Hymn" and even the beautifully tragic "(The Symphony of) Blasé," it's barely enough to note. Songs like the dark "The Feel Good Drag" address lust and deceit while "Stationary Stationery" is a more upbeat and catchy letter to an old friend or former flame.
Never Take Friendship Personal is a solid sophomore effort from these experts of catchy, hooky alternative rock. While they may leave your spirit feeling dry by the time the last notes of "Dance, Dance Christa Päffgen" fade out, Anberlin has put together a collection of relevant and fun songs that contemplate human relationships in a uncommon way. Never Take Friendship Personal is a great album to start off what looks to be a great year in music.
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