Gregory Christopher’s ongoing band project Random Parade has built an impressive discography in a short amount of time. A spate of EP releases, a small handful of singles, and one full-length album have set the stage for Parade’s latest release. The project’s second full-length album Never Meant to Last is, far and away, Christopher’s most fully realized yet. So much works in its favor. He benefits from his most diverse group of songs yet, instrumental diversity outstripping everything before, and deepening lyrical maturity.
His talents for theatricality and structure have sharpened as well. Random Parade bookends Never Meant to Last with two compositions that begin and end the collection with a clear design. The instrumental “Pathogen” and first full song “Lockdown” invoke the spirit of the last two plus years without ever embracing any sort of agenda. Christopher’s songs focus on the human toll of everyday life rather than “issues” often destined to date.
The former kicks off the album on a dark note. Guitar dominates the short instrumental, but there’s an industrial quality reinforced by the use of electronic instruments. “Lockdown” introduces newcomers to a sound that has definite retro qualities. The Cure and Joy Division are among the band’s avowed influences, but the muscular and sinewy demeanor of the performance balances their quirky and unpredictable tone.
They remind me of an older band than the aforementioned influences. Television, onetime mainstays of the New York City CBGB scene, shadows these songs like light spills through a window. There’s never a hint of outright imitation in any Random Parade songs, but they aren’t shy about embracing the past.
However, nothing about the band lives there. Some may hear Parade’s pairing of synth and other electronic touches with acoustic drums and a heavy guitar presence as being every bit as ill-advised in 2022 as in 1982. It suits the emotional tenor of the music and lyrics. Christopher has labored long crafting meaningful personal statements and deserves credit for largely avoiding autobiographical obscurity. Virtually anyone can relate to his words.
The band has a well-established template by the time “Battleground State” rolls around. It’s one of the finest foundational numbers, however, that Random Parade builds Never Meant to Last on and has a spark of inspiration running through it. Some may believe that’s incongruous given the relatively languid tempo Christopher chooses for the cut, but “Battleground State” has a cumulative effect. The song doesn’t play all of its cards at once.
“Firing Line” has a bright bounce and eschews the apocalyptic guitar rave-ups concluding other tracks. There are notable exceptions, but many will notice how his songwriting alternates between synth-powered art rock and alternative guitar workouts. Random Parade maintains a more or less consistent trajectory for the course of this song, but Christopher throws subtle tweaks and shifts into the final result. The chiming melodic guitar leading “This is the Day” doesn’t overwhelm the track and gives it a signature touch like a fingerprint. It’s a brisk final curtain for this album that ends Never Meant to Last on an upbeat musical note. It’s wrought with personal difficulty running through all of the songs, but Random Parade’s musical journey through this album provides an exhilarating ride.
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