LP | DL | Streaming
An album of upbeat radio friendly post-punk tunes conceals dark messages reflecting life in Western Australia.
I found it difficult to give you, the reader, a fitting description for Nerve Quakes and I think post-punk is the best you’re gonna get. It ain’t just me, their Facebook page claims they are a “Post punk/goth band”. Phil from UK label Imminent Destruction Records, who has masterminded the vinyl release, was less keen to use the G word so I’m downplaying that.
Despite having used it, I have to confess I’m really not a fan of the term “post-punk” . It’s a weird old genre name. Defining itself as coming after the cataclysmic golden epoch of punk as seen by the music biz. And it covers such a wide range of styles and sounds that in truth it doesn’t describe much at all. One nugget from Wikipedia states ‘Nicholas Lezard described the term “post-punk” as “so multifarious that only the broadest use … is possible”‘
I’m not up to speed on the plethora of post-punk sub-genres so please forgive my ignorance. Hailing from Perth (that’s Western Australia not Scotland, right) this 5 piece dish out tunes with turn-of-the-80s sensibilities that are fairly radio friendly. In particular they have a floaty and dream-like quality – a happy veneer which belies some of the subject matter of their songs.
They have all the vital post-punk ingredients. Hooky-esque bass leading some of the songs? Check! Atmospheric guitar? Check! Drumbeats switching between stompy and something not far from a disco beat? Check! Floaty keyboards? Check! The vocal style finishes off the package.
Nerve Quakes have their own sound but it is drawn on some clear influences. There are a few moments where that may be New Order and Joy Division, but not so miserable. Others where the Banshees are insinuated. The way the drums, bass and keyboards interplay has the pop sensibilities of acts like The Killers. I’m tempted to mention bands like The Mission as well. I guess the keyboard and overall spacey feel will probably be of interest to fans of The Lovely Eggs. I even hear a nod to Tubeway Army – something about the way the keyboards and drums work together.
Some of the songs are somewhat introspective coded messages – they could be about drugs, emotions, relationships or all three. But Nerve Quakes also weigh into some heavy “political” territory. For example control devices like religion and domestic abuse.
The song Interstellar with its chorus “The need to be deprogrammed is vital” is talking about religion. They tell us “There are no gods, all is random” and “Morality comes from compassion and not from fear of punishment”. But the sting is in the concluding line “The world will be just fine without us” – almost nihilistic, and reminds me of Dr Manhattan’s indifference to the fate of humans when put in the context of the universe.
You could say the common theme from the album is that we have to deprogram ourselves of damaging societal norms, and conditioning, wake up to the shit reality that is often hidden in plain sight before we can create the new.
By the middle of the record many of the songs are heavily in the vein of Kaleidoscope/Juju era Siouxsie. This is particularly true of Attention Economy and Off The Record. Attention Economy sets out a situation all too familiar, dealing with the way we are constantly bombarded with stimuli. Off The Record has a more bouncy tune and tackles Australia’s “secret national shame” – the systematic abuse and murder of aboriginal people.
More themes particular to Australia crop up in Operations, which speaks of indigenous people being displaced, and land contaminated as a result of nuclear tests. Under and After seems to deal with the aftermath of nuclear armageddon but it could as easily be about our rapidly accelerating approach to climate doom. Australia has always excelled as a setting for post apocalyptic tales. It sure is a grim picture and the Australian tourist board wont be queuing up to use them for its advertising campaign.
If you are into the post-punk vibe, Nerve Quakes put in a great performance and this band would have been huge in the 80s.
Get the album on black or silver vinyl from Imminent Destruction Records
All words by Nathan Brown. You can read more from Nathan on his Louder Than War archive over here.