Authentic and empowering. Nervus soften the blow of our trials and tribulations in life with a rich offering of sonic hope.
The name “Nervus” has been catching my eye for a while now – initially it was probably because of the super stylistic, distorted and scratchy font of their ‘logo’, not to mention that the name itself which resonates with so many of us. After finally getting around to indulging in their material, Nervus have captured me. And my brain. And it’s great. A first listen to their upcoming release Everything Dies was enough to recognise that, at face value, we have an offering of ultra-catchy hooks that are a joy to listen to. However, underneath the immediate surface lies a masterful demonstration of songwriting that serves to provoke the listener, forcing us into a state of introspection whilst simultaneously managing to address society as a whole. This music is incredibly brave and entirely beautiful.
From the off, Congratulations encapsulates this ethos. Opening in the simplest way possible – a 4/4 sig with a solitary block chord sits on the opening beat of each bar. This undemanding dynamic promptly throws the spotlight onto the vocals of Em Foster who wastes no time in tackling the potentially problematic nature of the way our lives, from birth, have a certain element of pre-determination. Foster is arguing the case that, even before we are born, there are societal expectations on individuals based solely on the sex that we are born with. As the timbre of the song grows piece by piece, the case builds. It is after the second verse that the message of this particular track is hammered home through the collective eruption of the outfit. As an album opener, this track is impeccably poised and encourages us to engage with the lyrical content whilst simultaneously teasing us with a catchy chorus.
Nobody Loses is a more upbeat endeavour. The percussion in this track is fantastic – the cowbell and expertly tackled fills that often appear, in short, tight bursts make for a really enjoyable listen. Perhaps most impressive is the maintenance of an ever-changing pace that the rhythm section cements at the foundation of this track. Again, the chorus is a welcome wake-up call from the somewhat quieter verses. I must say that hearing the band play in tandem, at a faster pace is perhaps where Nervus are at their most exciting. This is why It Follows is my favourite track, the song is loud, proud and fast with a chorus that is filled with enough bite to make it particularly exciting – laced with gang vocals for good measure – it certainly feels like the most ‘complete’ track on the album.
Another track in the first half of the album that makes for a more rousing listen is Sick Sad World that begins with a solitary 6-string that rips out a dancing riff that sounds really bloody cool. Following the same mould is The Way Back which opens with a similar riff that still sounds really bloody cool. Aside from this, the choruses and even the verses are fascinatingly catchy – I genuinely can’t recall a band that write hooks this catchy that are of the same humble notoriety as Nervus – I’m baffled as to how more people haven’t picked up on the talent on show here. Moreover, in addition to the fundamentally accessible nature of their craft – Nervus are addressing issues of addiction and gender dysphoria to just name a couple, these are issues of which there is currently very little discourse in the music industry. There is a gap to fill and it seems as though this band should be the ones to do just that.
Further cementing this notion is the content that comes in the likes of Recycled Air – by far the saddest song on the album. I like the fact that it comes as early as four tracks into the record. Often, bands can be quite lazy in lumping the slow songs together right at the end of the album for fear that the fickler listeners may lose interest with the less loud songs at an early stage and cease engagement with the release as a whole. This is impossible when listening to Recycled Air. “The isolation that I felt is no better” showcase the pains of Em Foster as they bleed into our ears and plant a morose sorrow that we share with her. “I know her name, I know her face and she is dying to get out of me” – never before have I felt so aware and so connected with gender dysphoria. This song is an outstanding piece of art that is to be commended to the highest degree.
It must be said, that there are a couple of tracks that seem to fade into the auditory background. Personally, Medicine proved a little bit too pedestrian in pace and I struggle to see that I would return to this song in the near future – the piano melody is dainty and emotive which is further bolstered by a moody refrain between verses that, while being a neat dynamic, just drags a little too long. Furthermore, the likes of Skin and Hold Tight once again boast outstanding choruses but it just feels as though we have heard the intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/breakdown/chorus blueprint a couple of times too many throughout the record. It’s a minor criticism as the songs that roughly follow this structure are still of a fine quality and each offer something different, whether that be through the lyrical content or the repeated hook that will undoubtedly linger in your head for hours after hearing the album.
Everything Dies draws to a close with Fall Apart. I get strong Frank Turner vibes here, a huge compliment as, for many, he is regarded as one of the finest songwriters in the British alt scene right now. It’s a slow song but a strong closer with sulky guitar parts often adopting the fore and, as the timbre develops and picks up towards the end of the song we are left in the same way that the album started – Em and a piano. The perfect cadence. When this album drops on 9th March, make sure you are there, headphones at the ready. It’s important that we listen to artist like Nervus – at a base level, it is catchy and enjoyable music that is easy to listen to whilst simultaneously being both gorgeously existential and frighteningly introspective. An exemplary demonstration of expert songwriting.
Everything Dies releases on 9th March through Big Scary Monsters.
Pre-order the album here: http://www.bsmrocks.com/products/606044-nervus-everything-dies-lp-cd-preorder
Check out the music videos for:
The Way Back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UiOjtm0COA