When first listening to Trophy Scars fresh summer EP, Never Born, Never Dead, I found myself making strange connections between the music and the classic Mafioso film The Godfather. There was a cinematic entrancement about the way the music flowed and how the writing climaxed just at the right moment like a true theatrical masterpiece. Lead man Jerry Jones’ olive oil voice and New Jersey charm conjured images of the wedding scene at the beginning of Coppola’s film when Johnny Fontane sang to a group of swooning Italians, all the while the Don was peering through the window of his empirical perch, making deals to kill men and redeem tragedies. It was the contrast between the sophisticated and traditional Italian life on the outside, and the brutal reality of the business within the house that made the Corleone family truly intimidating – artists of deceit and trickery. That same style of a fresh shine on the exterior, but with a savage interior, was brilliantly utilized on Never Born, Never Dead as it tells stories of love and death; vengeance and cruelty.
As the album rings into life with an ominous cacophony and a clip of Charles Manson (the first of many cleverly used samples), the stage is set for Jerry Jones to take over. His vocal work throughout the EP is unpredictable, as it can switch from a silky falsetto to a gravely shout at any given moment. The album begins powerful, with “Messengers” pulling no punches as it details the wicked life of a bloodthirsty criminal in a style reminiscent of a classic Spaghetti Western. They utilized this same technique for the next track, “Snake Oil” – a tense tale with gritty instrumentation to accentuate Jones’ guttural vocals. This first half of the record is most reminiscent of Trophy Scars earlier work as a more traditional post-hardcore group, but as “Snake Oil” fades out with its sinister piano, they immediately introduce the softer side of the record.
“Angels” begins with piano work reminiscent of something that could be found in a 1940s jukebox. With another tale of love and loss flowing with the melodic piano and drumming patterns, brilliantly concluded with a heartbreaking sample from Lost, they come to the peak of the album. “Never Dead”, perhaps one of the best songs to come from 2011, is as tragic as it is charming. Jones’ clashing vocal style working at its best with the distorted strumming of the electric guitar and subtle horn usage comes to an incredible crescendo as the song fades into another fantastic sample from the 2002 film Adaptation.
With its final theatric hurrah, Never Born, Never Dead ends with “Never Born”, a calming song to properly conclude the album’s overwhelming ferocious nature. Through the album’s ups and down, there is never a moment of filler or a note that seems unnecessary. The instrumentation that adjusts itself for the subject matter of each song and never plays second to the writing or vocals ties the album together in a flawless fashion. Easily the EP of 2011, Never Born, Never Dead takes every important aspect of music – writing, instrumentation, atmosphere, singing – and ties them together in a way that is rarely paralleled.