Don’t let the fact that the band Nervous Nellie hails from Sweden chase you off. Thankfully we are not dealing with ABBA or AHA but an engaging young Alternative band from Stockholm. The group’s sound can best be described as traditional indie pop with alternative folk tossed in the mix. Their live performances are gaining them positive notices. If you like early Depeche Mode, Foals, Frightened Rabbit and The Cure this may be a band for you.
Starting in September, Nervous Nellie has released a series of EPs, one a month for the last three months. Culminating in the December release of “When the Nightmare Gets In”, it is the compilation of the three EPs with two additional songs. “When the Nightmare Gets In” is the band’s fourth long play release. The songs on the individual EP’s had been picked for each disc to reflect a specific collective brain state. The three EP’s are titled Theta, Delta and Alpha. The songs are based on the band’s past and present dreams and nightmares. Listeners familiar with Freud and Jung will have a heyday picking out the psychological references. The album was produced by the Andreas Soderlund and the band. It was mixed by Soderlund, Anders Hvehare, and Berglund.
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The quartet is made up of two sets of Swedish brothers, two of the brothers grew up in Chicago, but all now reside in Sweden. Henrik Jonzon is the main vocalist playing guitar, and banjo, his brother Magnus plays piano, guitar and lends vocals, Andy Johansson mans the drums and percussion and his brother Sebastian handles bass, banjo and accordion duties.
The album kicks off with “Beacons” an enticing track that reminds me a lot of Frightened Rabbit. The band uses fantastic reverb guitar and percussion to present a solid introductory tune. “Eaten by Bears” is a faster tempo song. The band creates an engaging soundscape, the lyrics are melancholy and reflect an isolated feeling, with the central image of being eaten by bears and no one seeming to give a damn. “I’m eaten by bears but nobody cares.”
The song “Gloves” has a funky early Depeche Mode keyboard intro, and a very retro feel. Lyrics deal with miscommunication that brings about a major fight. “Bouncing off each other, the gloves are coming off; the signal is lost in the water”. This song is a grower.
“Skeletons” is the most Freudian song of the bunch, dealing with the imagery of skeletons in the closet that haunt. The highlight of the song is the dirty reverb guitar making the song a favorite of the disc. The song implies that confusion reigns,” is this a feeling of fear or a walk in the park, is this the final hour or it a moment of joy, or are we lost in the dark? Would someone please give me a sign?”
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On “Your So Sad” the band is joined by Paloma Faith. The song is a showcase of both Paloma’s and Henrik‘s vocal skills. This is “The Do Not Miss” song of the disc, a real attention getter. Deftly done, the song is a perfect gem that with mishandling could have taken a wrong turn.
“Cat Like Figure” is a quality song, with retro sounding keyboards, unfortunately it is after this track that the album runs out of steam. The next three songs “Shoulder “, “The Violence” and “Dead Dirt” seem less formed than the first half of the album. The songs are solid, but not as distinctive as the first five. “Shoulder” takes about half of the song to get going, but then kicks into overdrive with a moody psychedelic touch that should remind listeners of the great songs from The Psychedelic Furs. “Dead Dirt” is the most disappointing of the three, just doesn’t feel like a fully formed song, compared to the beginning of the album. The band do redeem themselves on the last song, “No Sound” which is a hook laden tune. A great arrangement and very effective guitar work bring the song home, making for a very nice finish to the album.
Overall Nervous Nellie puts forth a solid effort, and the first five songs are noteworthy. The middle three are a bit lackluster by comparison, but the last track “No Sound” is a strong finish. The foursome is well versed in Alternative sounds and strong hooky choruses. The songs have solid musical structures which provide an entry into their sound. Also to be admired is the way the band rolled out this release, giving them flexibility to go in different directions throughout the releases with out it becoming chaos. The group has strong potential, and certainly provides a reason to watch for their next outing.