ALBUM REVIEW: Nervus – Everything Dies
In the modern day as a whole the world is a much more accepting place than ever. Gargantuan steps have been made in the search for equality across the board; however we are not quite there yet as Em Foster will openly tell you. Since coming out to the world as suffering with the condition Transgender Dysphoria and beginning to live life as a female the frontwoman has received plenty of abuse and torment at the hands of cowardly internet trolls. However, she stands firm and has now put all of the negative energy that has come her way in to the latest release by her alternative rock outfit; Nervus.
The band released their debut album Permanent Rainbow in 2016 and although the songs were well crafted and presented with the kind of angst and sheer emotive power that should be heralded, it has been looked back upon by the band as something that they wish to move on from, much like the Pinkerton release by Weezer (Rivers Cuomo has stated on numerous different occasions that the album was cathartic and necessary for him at the time). Em Foster said in an interview with Upset Magazine that she became fixated with the idea that she was going to kill herself in the writing stages of this album. With the band’s latest release Everything Dies the band have taken the opportunity to expand their sound and build upon the foundations set upon their moody debut.
The album opens with the track Congratulations, which builds from the outset with the eerie atmospherics created by pianist/keyboardist Paul Etienne and the clean chords put together by Em Foster and bassist Karl Woods, which come together over the top of the simple, light drum beat laid down by Jack Kenny. The vocals are clean and well mixed, doing the sombre and well written lyrics justice with the way that they are delivered, which in our humble opinion throws you back to Matt Skiba’s voice on the earlier Alkaline Trio releases. The subject matter of the lyrics themselves are clearly regarding the band’s look towards gender and the ideology that people are expected to live in a certain way depending on the cards they are dealt at birth – and how that should not be the case. This is made perfectly clear with lines such as “Before you’re born they paint the room the colour you will prefer when you exist.”
The next track of note is Sick Sad World which has an insanely catchy and punchy melody running through it, instantly serving as throwback to the The Walking Wounded or Bayside era of Bayside. The drum beat links in wonderfully with the bouncy bassline and will undoubtedly entice the audience to dance along from the get go. The water tight rhythmic section gives Foster a platform to build her wonderfully well-crafted vocal hooks on. The chorus is monumental and is sure to go down a treat with either a club full of sweaty music fans or a field full of festival goers in the summer.
The following song Recycled Air shows how well the band utilises both the keyboard and guitar together to emphasise the tunefulness of the tracks. The bass line wanders throughout the verses whilst still maintaining the constant rhythm that the track desires and is still tied in perfectly with the simple drum beats, as they transition where the song requires. This song is not one of the stronger efforts on the album with possibly the weakest chorus, but it still manages to engage the listener throughout with the interesting composition of the instruments.
Next up is It Follows, which has been used to spearhead the release of Everything Dies with its strange music video (we’ll will get to that in a minute). The song itself has yet another really strong vocal effort from Foster where she almost takes on the voice of Lower Than Atlantis frontman Mike Duce – as far as the delivery goes. The track itself is a straight up rock song. The pace is dialed up another level, with the drum work much more punk-orientated and the guitars hashing out chords in a much more straight forward manor than we have previously seen on this album. Once again the chorus is a real ear worm and you find yourself singing the words “Face it, you got too comfortable. You thought it couldn’t go wrong. Embrace it, you’re not infallible. You needed help all along” with a big old smile on your face, which we’re presuming wasn’t the intentions when Foster scribbled the words down on her notepad whilst writing the song (we could be wrong). Now…onto the video. The whole thing is shot in black and white and shows the keyboardist Paul Etienne warming up rather intently in the middle of a coffee shop with a serious look on his face. The song then kicks in and you spend the next three and a half minutes watching him stare intently in to the lens (bar a couple of shifty side stares) whilst the camera pans around him and shows different angles of his face and glorious beard. We know, this sounds very dull but if you actually watch the video it is strangely engaging and compelling stuff!
On the whole this album is a tremendous leap forward for the band. The formula of the music hasn’t changed too drastically from their debut release Permanent Rainbows, however the songs seem to have been polished and composed by a band with much wiser and more experienced heads on their shoulders. Everything Dies appears to be a path for the main songwriter Em Foster on her journey to discover her real identity and frankly, we should feel privileged to be along for the ride. It certainly has one hell of a soundtrack so far!
Standout Track: Sick, Sad World
For Fans Of: Milk Teeth, Lower Than Atlantis, Alkaline Trio
Written by: Richard Webb