We live in the age of the pre-packaged pop star. From reality show contestants who win record contracts based more on looks than talent, to mall metal bands marketed directly to the tween Hot Topic crowd, authenticity seems to be in short supply when it comes to music these days.

And yet, time and time again, when employed by the right band, an old axiom proves true: Sometimes all you need are three chords and an attitude. Portland punkers The Never Nudes add a third element to this formula: heart.

The band’s self-titled six-track EP is done in classic punk style. All the prerequisite punk elements are in place, from the slashing guitars to the raw vocals and fast tempos, all wrapped up in a production mix where the treble is cranked up to 11. But where punk music has often been criticized for its nihilism and negativity, The Never Nudes take a different approach; if there’s a particular theme behind their music, it’s one of hope and perseverance.

Opening track “Saving Grace” acts as a sort of clarion call. Singer/guitarist Glenn Rolfe tells the story of how “when the walls came crashing down … (music) got me out alive … the music’s all I know … this is my saving grace.”

His vocals are raw, but delivered with passion and conviction, and help set the tone for the rest of the record.

“Dismantling Johnny” slows down the tempo just a hair, the band sounding a little like early Rancid on this one. A lament on the illusion of the so-called American dream, it’s one of the more sobering tracks on the EP. However, it’s immediately followed by the uplifting “Hearts and Minds,” a sort of musical eulogy for all the dismantled Johnnys, “brothers and friends gone before their time.” A terrific sing-along chorus all but guarantees that this track will become a staple in the band’s live set.

“Stuck on Survive” features a gloriously ragged guitar solo from Derek Johnson, while Rolfe’s lyrics express solidarity with other downtrodden folks, and offer up the assurance that “this world has grown so cold and you got stuck on survive … but you’ll get by.”

“Walking Away” features a lead vocal by bassist Johnny Noise. His style is a little gruffer than Rolfe’s, but his passion is no less intense. The song sounds a little like a young Lee Ving (of Fear fame) singing lead for Lagwagon, perfectly blending classic early ’80s punk rock attitude with the hookiness of so many ’90s bands on the Epitaph label.

The album closes with the surprisingly tender “Through the Eyes of Emily,” a tale of a girl going through some sort of emotional crisis that the narrator feels powerless to stop. Tender though it may be, this certainly isn’t a ballad. This is chugging mid-tempo punk rock, with the conviction of the Descendants but also the pop sensibility of the Ramones.

In a time when half the music we hear seems to be written and performed by and for computers and robots, there’s something remarkably refreshing about four guys getting together and hammering out DIY punk rock using the tried and true bass/guitar/drums/vocals formula. But anyone can bash out a few bar chords in the garage.

What sets The Never Nudes apart is the fact that they took the time to hone their craft and write actual songs, without sacrificing one bit of their punk rock credibility. The result is a terrific debut EP that’s a true testament to the power of music, attitude, heart and those three loud chords.

Stream the EP for free and download it for the bargain price of $3 at thenevernudes-me.bandcamp.com/album/the-never-nudes, and don’t forget to catch the band live at Geno’s in Portland Thursday and again at Geno’s on April 22. Keep updated on all things The Never Nudes at www.facebook.com/TheNeverNudes.

Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be reached at:

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