When it comes to combining poignant, heartfelt lyrics with soaring melody and hook-laden choruses, there are few bands who could stand toe to toe with the fast-rising Nervus. Fresh off the back of touring with another of the UK’s hottest prospects at the tail end of last year at Creeper’s Theatre of Fear shows, this Watford quartet are back with second album ‘Everything Dies’, the highly anticipated follow-up to 2015’s excellent ‘Permanent Rainbow’.
Following a record as encapsulating as their debut was never going to be easy, but by elevating each individual component Nervus have managed to compose an album that sounds greater than the sum of its parts. That’s no mean feat either, as the level of musicianship on display from all corners is of a wonderfully high standard. Taking centre stage is the enigmatic Em Foster, an artist who has channelled her struggles with gender dysphoria into an album of cathartic reflection on the past while keeping one eye on the future and its endless possibilities now that she’s becoming more comfortable in her own skin.
This struggle forms the basis of the album, providing a platform to exercise the demons of the past while challenging the stone age stereotypes that still plague all corners of even the most forward-thinking societies. Despite the core of the record focusing on similar themes throughout, the influences on this album are perhaps surprisingly wide ranging, from the obvious connections lyrically and thematically with Against Me! to the folk-punk driven verses on ‘Sick Sad World’ reminiscent of troubadour Frank Turner. There’s a good deal of Alkaline Trio and a tonne of Weezer here too, woven throughout each track in the form of some stunning melodic composition and the occasional burst of eccentricity reminiscent of Matt Skiba and, in particular, Rivers Cuomo.
‘Skin’ delights by mixing alt-rock tempo with elements of indie and emo creeping into the background, while ‘Medicine’ opts for a more varied approach with distorted guitars intertwining alongside emotionally charged lyrics and delicate piano passages. There are some genuinely cracking out and out rock songs here too, with ‘It Follows’ and ‘Hold Tight’ offering simplistic yet intoxicating radio-friendly anthems that are just begging to be heard by a larger audience.
For all its nuance and harmony however, there are moments when the record does fall into the trap of becoming slightly one-paced. Although these occurrences are fleeting and are almost always swept away by a subtle yet creatively intriguing change in direction, the fact that there are similar lulls littered across the album stop this from being a complete knock out and perhaps highlights a slight lack of experience in crafting a perfect collection of rock songs. That said, the fact that the record is bookended by two of the strongest tracks that Nervus have ever written in ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Fall Apart’ shows a real ear for composition, which is a skill that many of the band’s peers are still yet to master and one that allows the album to spring out of the blocks early on while still ending on the highest of highs.
Nervus, and Em in particular, have the potential to become one of the most important artists to grace the UK scene in a long, long time, partly down to the quality of the music but largely down to the voice that they are giving to the LGBT community. In the same way that My Chemical Romance spoke to the disillusioned and the outcasts, Nervus are reaching out to anyone uncomfortable in their own skin, anyone feeling at odds with not only societal expectations but with their very own bodies as well.
Providing this sense of belonging and identification is something that transcends the music, but the fact that the songs themselves are so strong is a real blessing as it means that they simply cannot be ignored. ‘Everything Dies’ is a record that, while flawed, is a massive stride in the right direction for the band and the UK rock scene as a whole, and by shouting it from the rooftops we may just have the chance to not only commend a wonderful album, but also make sure that the people who need this most get the chance to hear it. The more people who know about this record the more chance there is that someone will be helped through the most difficult period of their life, and if we as a scene and as a community can aide this by strapping a rocket to Nervus’ back and championing them far and wide, then that’s exactly what we should do.
‘Everything Dies’ is out on March 9th via Big Scary Monsters.