Slab Review: Psychic Teens’ “NERVE”

Psychic Teens - NERVE

Sensitive creeps Psychic Teens get down—down in the dumps, that is—like only they can on NERVE.

 

While the Philadelphia trio still force feeds you its patented cold stew of post-punk, goth, and shoegaze, NERVE is cleaner and bigger than 2013’s dank, claustrophobic COME. Here, Psychic Teens opens up and shows what they’re really made of: angst and ice and everything not nice.

 

Don’t be afraid of that a-word, though, because NERVE is a genuinely moving piece of work.

 

Compared to previous efforts, Larry Ragone’s lyrics are easier to hear on NERVE—and they’re about as blunt as a shovel to the rib cage. In his deadpan, baritone voice, Ragone croons about isolation, loss, frustration and, as you’ll hear in the very first line on opener “Everything,” fear and self-loathing. Good morning to you, too.

 

 

If you listen closely, some hallowed spirits of the past loom over this melancholy meal: the chattering guitars of “Tarnish” hearken back to Night Time-era Killing Joke, “Hang” is like The Jesus Lizard on tranks, and “Scene” invokes the atmosphere of The Misfits’ “TV Casualties.”

 

At the album’s heart is “Winter Grey,” where Ragone declares “I don’t need anybody” against a backdrop of slushy bass and a guitar that’s forlorn one minute and punky the next. “Fear” is like the soundtrack to a dreary spaghetti western, except that instead of transporting you to the sun-soaked plains of SoCal, this slice of drama is set in the barest concrete corridors of the band’s hometown.

 

Psychic Teens
Psychic Teens

The album’s sole crime? The interlude “A.T. Field,” which really does nothing but get between you and the crown jewel of NERVE.

 

Erupting in a black metal-esque blaze, “End” chases the blues away, perhaps even wrenching you from the fetal position you’ve no doubt curled into by this point.

 

Or maybe not: NERVE’s most energetic song still manages to be ironic as hell by boasting the album’s saddest line, “I can’t leave the house.”

 

Psychic Teens should be way bigger, but if anyone knows that life isn’t fair, it’s probably the three dudes who are responsible for clocking us over the heads with this gloomy tour de force. If only every band could evolve this gracefully and amass so much power in the process.

 

Released: May 13, 2016

Label: SRA Records

 

-Jason Mosheim
@jasonmosheim

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