Bad Nerves : Still Nervous

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Bad Nerves Still Nervous

Bad Nerves are a band who know what they’re good at, and what they’re good at is writing hooks. “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” goes that old songwriting adage credited to Motown’s Berry Gordy, and it’s a piece of advice that quite clearly constitutes the beating heart of the Bad Nerves philosophy, seeing as the band have filled up their newest record, Still Nervous, in much the same way that they filled up their last one: by ramming it full of choruses defined by hypersonic beats, euphoric melodies, and rebellious, youthful vitality. Those choruses are very good, and as the album is full of them, it’s something of an inevitable conclusion that Bad Nerves’ sophomore effort is, more or less, a success.

The riffs, insomuch as they appear at all, cut the frills and barrel directly toward the point at electrifying speed. The choppy, hammering bursts of fuzz that make up the introduction to “USA,” for example, are utterly thrilling, encapsulating with reverent joy the exact kind of boisterous, dirty, stripped-back style that the band base their image around. Songs like “Jimmy the Punk” or “Sorry” feature tight, simple, and pleasingly rhythmic riffs that are sure to inspire a little toe-tapping or lighter-waving from the audience. The vocals, likewise, add an important layer of vibrancy and excitement to the songs; while the instruments pound away, building an atmosphere of unwavering, adrenalized persistence, the melodies—”like the ones we hear in “Television,” for example, or the anthemic “Too Lazy To Love,” give the music a lighter, sunnier edge, complementing the scrappy angst and sweaty power with something fun, sweet, and undeniably catchy.

If there’s any problem at all with Still Nervous, it’s probably more to do with the medium than any one offering you might pluck out of album’s tracklist. This record presents itself as a manic rush of rock ‘n’ roll id, the sound of uncontrolled and uncontrollable release with the distortion ramped up to 11. The trouble is that it’s deceptively hard to make such a record truly land because of the difficulty involved in maintaining the balance between a consistent speed and energy on the one hand, and keeping the record varied enough never to drag on the other. On Still Nervous, the energy is impressively unrelenting, but the variation just isn’t quite there. Which—crucially—is not to say that any of the songs are bad, just that the formula does start to wear a little thin when they’re all stacked up against each other and played in rapid succession.

It doesn’t take much sleuthing, though—only an ear or two—to figure out that Bad Nerves’ music isn’t really meant for home-listening. Instead, it is simply begging to be played live—and it’s highly instructive that the band don’t shy away from describing themselves or their music as “pop.” Indeed, it is that adjective, perhaps more than any other, that shines a light on their mission statement. Bad Nerves are making music, in the most literal sense, for people; for a crowd; for a hectic live venue, preferably a basement, where the stage is nothing more than a wooden pallet nicked from a neighboring warehouse. There might be some danger in anchoring one’s aesthetic and attitude so particularly in a scene that already kicked the bucket several decades prior, but the urgency and vitality of the music Bad Nerves are putting out is something that will simply never get old.

Label: Lowly

Year: 2024

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