Punk lifer Neil Berthier considers his all-time lows on a hopeful new album as Phony | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Punk lifer Neil Berthier considers his all-time lows on a hopeful new album as Phony

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When punk musician Neil Berthier sat down for a Better Yet Podcast interview at the beginning of 2019, he was halfway through a yearlong stint in Chicago; he’d moved here after a short stay in Nashville following the 2017 dissolution of his rambunctious, stylistically slippery New Orleans indie-punk band Donovan Wolfington. Berthier was still coming to terms with his band’s breakup when he talked to Better Yet host (and Reader contributor) Tim Crisp, even though he already had an established solo project, originally called Neil O’Neil. In 2018 he’d dropped an album under that name, Knock Yourself Out, but before the end of the year he erased it from the Internet. Since then, Berthier has changed the name of his project to Phony and released another album as his debut, 2019’s alternately blistering and sweet Songs You’ll Never Sing. Now based in Boston, he dusted off Knock Yourself Out as his follow-up album, remastering it for a physical release through Smartpunk. Throughout the record, Berthier drags his sullen, irascible voice across straightforward rock songs powered by posthardcore rhythmic muscle, emo melodies, and power-pop hooks. More often than not, the friction between his singing and the instrumental tracks works to counteract his disconsolate streak; on the gloomy “Waffle House,” Berthier considers a panic attack that he had in the middle of Oklahoma, but the brightness of the tastefully minimal keys suggests his worst days are behind him.   v

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