I was getting myself readily prepared to hate the Nervous Return. For one thing, there are very few pop punk bands that I like. For another, I used to live in San Diego and had to live through the ignominy that was the seemingly gradual, but in actuality quick change of the radio station 91X from being truly alternative to being all Blink all the time. So what else was I supposed to think about a Los Angeles pop punk band that was the first to be signed to Blink 182’s Travis Barker’s record label? Bring it on, I thought.
In more immortal words from our newly (ahem) reelected Commander in Chief, I misunderestimated them. Formerly called twig, the Nervous Return comes out of L.A. not with a bang and not with a whimper, but stealthily with a smart and stylish power pop that combines the best elements of punk, glam, and new wave available. Jason Muller’s vocals are somewhere in between John Reis and Plexi’s Michael Angelos. If all Southern California pop punk sounded like this, maybe I wouldn’t be so dead set against the genre.
Taking cues from Rocket from the Crypt and other cutting edge SoCal hipsters, the Nervous Return take different genres and spin them on their heads. At times you hear the hardcore leanings of McLusky (“So and So from Such and Such”) and at others the pop sensibilities of XTC combined with the swagger of the Cult (“It’s Not Enough”). And somehow it all comes together. The aforementioned songs are standouts, but there are really no bad songs on this album. It is all fun, highly listenable, and infectious.
I simply don’t know what to do with myself! My whole world is turned upside-down! What can I count on? What can I trust? Next, someone will be handing me an album by a Grateful Dead soundalike jam band on Eminem’s new label and it will be the best thing I ever heard. Oh god, please don’t let that happen. It will make me question your entire strategery.
Plexi – Cheer Up
Rocket from the Crypt – Scream, Dracula, Scream!
McLusky – The Difference Between You and Me is I’m Not on Fire