Music Reviews
Nursing Home

Let's Wrestle Nursing Home

(Merge) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

The attachment one holds to the lackadaisical years of adolescence will generally differ depending on the environment one grows up. However, certain themes resonate as wholly universal: joy, angst, naïve heartbreak, defiance, and wonder. In popular music, the past few years have brought a string of thought provoking records that chronicle the years of lost innocence with a very mature outlook. In The Suburbs, The Arcade Fire treats suburbia as if they were recreating War & Peace – they bestow their characters with great importance, even if those moral complexities are enclosed inside a territorial microcosm. Others, like the Twilight Sad’s Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, recall the dark underbelly of adolescence with traumatic images that border on misanthropic. And yet, both unfurl with striking pompousness; perhaps they are meant to celebrate the act of cementing the past in favor of wallowing in it.

For most of us, suburbia isn’t anything more than a series of events that candidly portrait lost youth. One wonders whether or not it was time well spent or time wasted. The results are entirely subjective: in a way, I’ll always regret my continuous disinterest in History. Since I was a responsible child, I would aimlessly read my textbooks while that right side of my head would try to outguess the block of grunge videos Alternative Nation would play that night.  The members of bands like Let’s Wrestle and Nodzzz probably had a similar childhood: just like me, they were middle-class geeks who were well aware about the concerns of failing school, yet couldn’t resist draining any speck of knowledge by consuming vast dosages of entertainment.

Is there any fault in approaching adolescence in such a self-serious manner? That’s a question best left for the aural pundits, but I’m sure it’s just as fair as the copious amounts of young bands that actually get record deals writing about the incongruities of teenage life. Let’s Wrestle couldn’t be any more juvenile in behavior – their stitched-up garage pop is full of themes that emphasize the failure to grow up, as well as not having a firm grasp about how it is one grows up.Nodzzz are a little bit more confident but just as clueless – their jangly pop songs describe the misadventures of youth with two minute anthems that are meant to be purposely ambiguous. In Nodzzz’s case, a failure to grow up is due to a lack of the necessary amenities -- no money, no car, no style -- necessary to leave the house. While the members of Let’s Wrestle embrace their uncool demeanor, Nodzzz kinda want to fit in, even if it’s inside their close circle of friends.

So, does time make Let’s Wrestle wiser? Produced by underground hero Steve Albini, Nursing Home categorically progresses in terms of sound, supporting a ramshackle of thrashy guitars, hollow floor tom pounds, and spiky bass lines to their true-to-design punk rock. More affable than hardcore punks, the Londoners know how to assault with monumental levels of guitar noise when they want to get the point across without any respite. Nursing Home is filled with powerful, unpredictable segments that really pinpoint songwriting maturity: I’m So Lazy delivers a rich, galloping melody that even mounts to a battery-charged bridge solo without losing the slightest focus, while tracks like There’s A Rock Star In My Room and If I Keep loving You revive nineties sludge punk with its jittery choruses. I Am Useful even employs a tongue-in-cheek saloon piano to complement with Wesley Patrick Gonzalez’ recurrent device of mimicking Ray Davies’ biting witticisms. 

The lyrical content? Well, let’s just say they still rely on mom to cook the food; In The Suburbs recounts the pleasantries of having stupid friends over, playing computer games, and asserting that the only worries in life are when school ends. That wistful nostalgia makes one scream mom disorder in a very unflattering way, but the conviction behind the smart, muscular tracks really makes you believe that they’ve been listening to Dinosaur Jr. records and practicing in the garage for days on end.

Named after the fact that two of the members used to be softball teammates, Innings rounds the bases much like Nodzzz did, both in economy and in scope. Now on Woodsist, the San Francisco trio’s chief advancement is that they’ve now got the budget to clean up their sound. Still sounding like Enigma Records alumni, they blast crisp, primitive jangle like unwitting savants with their lazy, half-assed spurts of creativity. What they lack in progression they make up with a cornucopia of appetizing hooks: the quirky, freewheeling True to Life has the same novelty charm as The Dead Milkman, while Troubled Times bases a minimal, Jad Fair-like hook in barely over a minute with overabundant energy. Since Nodzzz songs rely mostly on sporadic ruminations, they communicate much more effectively when a satisfying guitar riff surprises as opposed to when they build an entire song on little life tidbits that don’t amount to much.

By all means, Nursing Home is in the running for most childish record by grown men of 2011. That shouldn’t hold it against them – in wearing their field day victory ribbon with pride, Let’s Wrestle has developed a studied, wide-ranging brute that embraces their oddball wit to a greater degree. Conversely, Innings proves that Nodzzz can be just as flippant with their whimsical tunes, but more than half the record sounds tossed-off, too at ease with the final result. A shame really, considering a bit more fleshing out could really showcase those effortless hooks. Fortunately, bands like Nodzzz and Let’s Wrestle still believe that there’s value in outwardly depicting adolescence instead of forcing any inwards-looking concerns. Besides, when you were young, you didn’t know any better.