Published Nov 18, 2020Partner's debut, 2017's In Search of Lost Time, filtered classic rock riffs through a Weezer-esque alt-rock lens, but it was the band's penchant for stoner humour in their lyrics and the skits interspersed between its tracks that drew the most notice.
Legalization, it seems, has been good to members Josée Caron and Lucy Niles, whose travails have moved beyond being stoned in public to bigger concerns, like the power of rock'n'roll. They double down on the rock tropes, rewriting the genre's founding mythologies through their unique tongue-in-cheek lens. A guitar that gives its player mythical musical powers? You can find that on "Honey." Rock's ability to bring people together? That's on "Rock is My Rock." Rock's ability to make people really horny? See "Big Gay Hands."
But Never Give Up also expands their riff-centric template. "The Pit," "Good Place to Hide (At the Time)" and the Jim Steinman-esque "Roller Coaster (Life Is One)" grapple with mid-20s malaise over soaring instrumentation far more sublime than the rest of the album's riff-o-rammas; they're some of the record's most satisfying listens and offer a look at where a third Partner record might lead.
At times, Caron and Niles' ambitions run up against technological and financial hurdles. The band's production on Never Give Up is impressive. The guitars and drums, in particular, sound huge, and there are plenty of little flourishes fleshing out the spaces in these songs. In places, the vocals can feel a bit tossed off, the band's DIY aesthetic brushing up against their big-budget inspiration.
Overall, this is another triumph for the band. Where their debut found the pair pulling humour out of life's little indignities, here they show how to triumph over them (usually by rocking, better, harder, faster and more often). Far from being a one-note act, Never Give Up proves that Partner are a band with endless musical possibilities before them. (You've Changed)