The Nervous Wreckords Let Them All Talk (self-released)
In the world of mainstream pop, complexity almost always equals death. With hits like Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend," the point isn't to provoke or subvert; it's to give people exactly what they want, be it catchy melodies, dance-inducing beats or heteronormative themes.
Thankfully, The Nervous Wreckords aren't try ing to be Justin or Carly Rae. Quite the opposite: On their new album, Let Them All Talk, the pop-rock outfit takes whatever expectations you might have, tears them into little pieces and throws them back in your face like confetti. The result is one of the most distinct, empowering pop albums to come out of San Diego this year.
Of course, Let Them All Talk does have plenty of catchy melodies and dance-inducing beats—throughout, the band strikes a nice balance between Devo-style synth-pop and stripped-down, Strokes-esque rock. But they play around with convention every chance they get. On the cover, a glamorous transsexual lounges on a couch, dolled up in lingerie. In album opener "Beautiful Girl," frontman Brian Karscig sings about a woman who dresses like a man: "Why do people care about what you want to look like anyway?"
One of the catchiest songs on the album is also one of the messiest: On "8 Track (I'm Comin Back)," Karscig sings an easygoing melody over herky-jerky bass, '80s-synth sparkle and funky rock guitar. But the band also tosses in some killer piano and honking sax, two rootsier additions that feel completely out of place within the song.
Stuff like that might not sit well with a big-shot pop producer like Max Martin, but Karscig makes clear on the title track—a blistering kiss-off seemingly about music critics—that he doesn't give a fuck what the critics think: "Let them all talk, they're just jealous." After all, life itself is usually messy, complicated and unpredictable; while many artists prefer to sound neat and tidy, it's refreshing to hear a band embrace that reality with open arms.