If you imagine the glory days are gone, think again. One of the most heartening things I've learned in the last few years is that not only are artists getting better and better despite grumblings you may hear from dinosaurs on their way to the tarpits, but the emergence of a wilderness of small independent labels and alliances, not to mention key individuals acting as promotion agents, has been nothing but good for music. My constant answer to those who rightfully lament the death of art in the mainstream is to advise people to check into the indies, because there are very few genres in which the materials there aren't vastly better than what's to be had via Billboard and other crass uber-capitalist trash venues.
Take Nerves Junior as an example. After coming down from the bliss experienced in reviewing the Chocolate Horses CD (here), I thought "Man, that one's gonna be awfully tough to match!". Then the same guy who'd posted CH (Jeffrey Smith) sent along Nerves Junior, and I was stunned. What at first seemed a strange collision of brittle post-pop somewhat on the order of Teardrop Explodes or Echo & The Bunnymen slowly turned into a wonderland of progressive work a la Eno's early materials and then moved forward from there, with no small amount of dazzlingly cohered electronic bric a brac festooning a morphing Blade Runner milieu.
This fivesome wields its instruments in such fashion that it's often difficult to distinguish one from the other, and the recording blurs things just enough to nicely reinforce the effect. Swimmer's Ear, for instance, carries a devastating…bass?…guitar?…synth?..line that Kraftwerk and Random Hold would've killed for, a disturbing but meaty underpinning that forces the bottom end of the song up into the light, and the synth lead-in to the title cut is as cool as anything the godly Rammstein has come up with. Nerves Jr. is the oddest compelling combination of peripheral art-damage kinda like Mike Keneally mixed with Television and Ultravox but sieved through an extremely progressive mindset, and if these cats haven't been glomming the old 70s catalog for their inspiration, I'll be shocked.
By the time the third and fourth cuts ramp up (Nails to Scratch With is glorious!), the group is in full throttle and tearing along like a pack of seasoned vets dropping into the pocket, playing straight from heart and gut but smitten with the light of Jupiter. Any listener preconception that Junior might be 'this' or might be 'that' is speedily scotched as the tablet of cuts keeps jumping from one moody environment to another. It figures, doesn't it?, that just when you start to worry about the torch being passed, a bunch of hungry young lads sprint in to reassure that dexterity and intelligence are far from dead. The elders can now trundle off into the horizon with smiles on their collective face, their day over, their job done, and the future bright.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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