Nurses Dracula(Dead Oceans) Buy it from Insound
I’ve learned that it helps to keep an open mind when confronted with a vocalist who makes your skin crawl the first time you hear him/her. I never want to end up like Mitch Miller wondering what the hell John Hammond was doing with the frog-throated Bob Dylan. Do you remember what you thought when you heard Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s first album? You remember how you ended up digging it anyway?
This occurs to me about 30 seconds into Fever Dreams, the first track off the Nurses new album. Aaron Chapman’s voice has a grating quality that is hard to describe. It’s almost as if he’s trying very deliberately to annoy you. If that wasn’t enough, the processing on his vocal seems designed specifically to heighten this effect. But you listen and you realize that Dreams is actually a pretty good song. So I’m always willing to put up with quite a lot from the messenger if I like the message. There’s a weird combination of influences at work here. The beats and some melodies are like something out of an 80s new romantic synth-band. Extra Fast almost sounds like the Hall & Oates song, Say It Isn’t So. But this is the 80s put through some kind of strange Goth organ grinder. The usual industrial Joy Division comparisons apply, but Chapman’s vocals and the cheesy 80s percussive effects, like those found on New Feelings, quickly make you forget the similarities. Those things tend to work against the music, as far as I’m concerned with my well documented 80s-induced nausea, but the darkness definitely is a plus. And if you don’t cringe at the same things I do, you might actually really dig this. The tunes aren’t bad at all, so a lot of Dracula is both kind of appealing as well as being moody, which is not such a bad combination.
Record reviewing is not a purely objective pursuit so pardon me if my prejudices and tastes get in the way of a true appreciation of what Nurses have done. If you download a song and like what they’re up to, you’ll probably rate this album a firm 7. I can’t go there, but maybe that’s my issue, not yours.12 September, 2011 - 20:05 — Alan Shulman