There are pretty much two kinds of punks in the world: the ones who think the thunderous miasma of the Stooges' Funhouse is the greatest album ever and those who believe the tinny, ripping sneer on Iggy and the Stooges' Raw Power is what makes the world go round. Birthday Party, Mudhoney, Fugazi, and countless critics fall into the former camp. Nerves (that's Nerves, not the Nerves) are roundly in the latter: Rob Datum's Hellish (as in Richard) howl and skinny, Tequila-shots guitar solos on the recent New Animal let you know he's got a thing for James Williamson, and he doesn't care who knows. Either dig it or back the hell up; Nerves will rock you either way.
Indeed, the purity of Nerves' rawk is overstated so often, one gets the mistaken impression they're some sort of Yardbirds tribute band. (Admittedly, they know their mod: Check out the Creation bounce on "Cry, Cry" and "Own Religion.") But this is because Nerves are signed to Thrill Jockey, home of Tortoise, Rome, and Trans Am, bands most famous for the healthy injection of loping dub mechanics and electronic underpinnings they bring to the indie feast. Nerves' spiky rave-ups stand out in Thrill Jockey's roster like an open can of Bud at a state dinner. Though they hail from Chicago, the art-core capital of the free world, Nerves crank the sort of pre-hardcore-inflected punk electroshock that one associates with Ohians like the Anyway Records crew; drummer Elliot Dicks hails from Columbus, so maybe it is something in the water. And they like to keep the wankery to a minimum: Their 13-song self-titled debut clocked in at 27 minutes. Nerves are purely pretension-free, giving no ground, taking no prisoners, and leaving chunks of broken strings and busted drum heads in their wake.
Produced by Sub Pop recording vet Jack Endino, New Animal rockets along, a sitcom-length blast of pure riff for now people, throttle kept open by Dicks and bassist Seth Skundrick. Jeremy Jacobson, whom indie geeks might recognize as the Lonesome Organist, lays down vaguely foreboding organ here and there, making everything that much heavier on "Looking Into Fire" and especially the spooky "Twilight Blvd." Songs blurt to life, punch and run like De La Hoya (he was robbed, kids), and exit the ring, fists held high. Datum yelps and whinnies as though someone keeps giving him a hotfoot, but he's learned how to work the drama. "Die Tonight" weaves a Big Rock Drone in and out of the song, breaking up choppy riffs with a pulse as thunderous and massive as any Zep intro. The title track closes out this episode of Nerves with epic carnival drama, a evening of wandering around the state fair dead drunk in four minutes and 11 seconds, dog howls and tom-tom Ferris wheels shutting it down and yelling out "last call." Come on feel the hangover.
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