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An album of true grit

Neutralboy poster. - Courtesy graphic
Neutralboy poster.
— image credit: Courtesy graphic

By BILL MICKELSON

What’s Up

Neutralboy’s latest release, “Everybody Dies,” is a mean piece of work.

It’s a collection of stories of hard living and tales from the road. Which is incidentally also where it was recorded.

The Bremerton four-piece were beckoned to Colorado by a local independent label called Fivercore Records, who set them up with producer Bart McCrorey at Motaland Studios in Denver.

True to its grit, the band played shows on the way from the Northwest to the Rockies, a few during the week they recorded and a few on the way back this past summer. (Now, they’re on the road again, in support of the new album which you can pick up at Ploy Studios 609 4th St. in Bremerton).

Also a testament to their grit, “Everybody Dies” was the second CD Neutralboy had recorded that year. They kicked off 2007 laying down tracks with MxPx’s Mike Herrera in Bremerton. When they finished that album up it got label attention which then threw it into a cycle of being sent out to be re-mastered and sent back for approval and so on.

Drummer Hal 9000 who also hails from Colorado said in the midst of that the Fivecore records cats had been wanting to put out Neutralboy’s next CD. And they said, “OK.”

The resulting album, “Everybody Dies,” truly showcases the breadth and depth of Neutralboy and songwriter Mike Frottage.

It starts out with Frottage waylaying everyone on the title track.

“Everybody dies,” he repeats over and over, slower and slower in a gruff yell through the 30-second opening song. Then a chorus answers, “Neutralboy Lives!”

And the signature straight-ahead punk kicks in with “All Eyes on the Crooked Guy.”

On the first leg of the “Everybody Dies” CD release tour earlier this month, the band came across one such “crooked guy” at a club in Spokane.

“I was talking to him outside and I just knew looking into his eyes that this guy was going to be trouble,” Hal 9000 said.

Inside during Neutralboy’s set, this show-goer was a bit overzealous, falling all over the stage, hitting people with mic stands, and so on, Hal recounts. Frottage gets pissed and throws his guitar at the guy, starts swinging the mic stand at him until the verse kicks in, and goes back to singing again.

“Then you see (guitarist) Anton (Reder) with his guitar raised and his other fist in the air,” Hal said.

Reder came down wailing on the out-of-line rebel rouser.

He came out with a bloody fist, and Frottage’s guitar neck snapped during the episode, but in the end, the “crooked guy” got what was coming to him.

I don’t if that metaphor could quite define “Everybody Dies,” but there is a sense of hardcore resolve that is reaped in the disc’s 14 songs.

It’s got all the confidence, drugs and booze from their last CD “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” but if its possible that a 15-year-old band can mature, Neutralboy has done so on “Everybody Dies.”

Staying true to the same four chords they’ve been playing all these years, the song structures seem even more refined with apt variety. And an even more exciting evolution, Neutralboy’s brought in a host of collaborators with this record, mostly a Colorado crew.

Jon Snodgrass of Drag the River/Armchair Martian contributed country-flavored vocals to the reflective “Dead Guys Sing Sad Songs,” a song that also features Angela Kimber on a solemn cello. On the other end of the spectrum, Sarah Stoli from Hal 9000’s former band Stoli and the Beers adds a screaming chaos to the song “Baptized By Fire.”

Neutralboy returns to Bremerton from the “Everybody Dies” tour for a finale show with Get Dead and Android Hero, starting at 8 p.m. Jan. 23 at Winterland, 1220 Sylvan Way in Bremerton. 21+, $5. Copies of “Everybody Dies” will be available. Or you can also pick one up online at www.myspace.com/neutralboy or at Ploy Studios, 609 4th St. in Bremerton.

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