For those who ventured out to the KAABOO festival early enough on day two, they might have caught The Nervous Wreckords during the noon hour on the Tourmaline stage.
The indie-rock band with San Diego roots (frontman Brian Karscig was the guitarist and backing vocalist in Louis XIV) played an inspired set; unfortunately, only about a dozen souls (including this writer) braved the heat of the day to see the band play some old songs from 2013’s Let Them All Talk and 2011’s Valuminium.
The group — which also includes guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer (both from The Killers) and drummer Jake Najor (TV on the Radio) — also tried out some new material, which has just been released on the five-song EP, The Nervous Wreckord (Part 1).
The album kicks off with the inviting guitar strum and piano of “Out Run the Animal.” Karscig’s high-pitched vocals (treated like ELO singer Jeff Lynne’s compressed sound on most tracks) take on a slow build, inviting the listener in. Unfortunately, the second half of the song gets overcomplicated, working in a guitar solo, frenetic drum fills, and even violins. The same can be said of the arrangement in “This Won’t Be the Same,” which sounds like two separate songs playing concurrently while the repetitive chorus rides between them.
“Just the Two,” the only ballad in the batch, is a pleasant addition, with its stream-of-consciousness lyrics and backing harmonies, but the two tracks most worth visiting iTunes for are the catchy “Crazy Drugs” and “Famous Movie Star.” Both fun songs, “Drugs” is reminiscent of Cake with its crunchy guitar, bass, and horns, and Karscig’s vocals take on a Jack White-like swagger. Meanwhile, “Movie Star,” which the KAABOO crowd really enjoyed, unveils a more classic sound with handclaps and a shuffling drum beat.
While it’s understandable that a studio album won’t pack the same punch as a live set, one of The Nervous Wreckords’ most appealing qualities at KAABOO was their garage band vibe. None of that really comes through on this EP. Hopefully when the band releases The Nervous Wreckord (Part 2) in March 2016 and the full-length combining all 10 songs in April/May, they’ll add a little more grit to the mix.