This is GrizzlyGround’s first double review. Both Christian and Becca reviewed this album to give two separate opinions on Some Nerve by Broken Beak. They didn't consult each other much before writing their own opinions aside from touching base to see if they both liked the album or not.
I tried to listen to this album, like I often try to do, in one long listen for the first time. I then listen to the album on repeat for the remainder of the week to get a feel for what tracks I hit replay on.
However, this one took me a couple non-continuous listens to get through initially. The latter half of the album is where my attention is entirely captivated. “Saint” is the first song I started hitting repeat on. There is a feeling of pushing and restraint in all the right places, coupled with another sharp contrast between aggression and softness within the vocals. The guitar, bass, and drums accompany the lyrics and emphasize them in such a powerful way before the track abruptly ends on the last words: some pain is fine.
“Glass Honey” is easily my favorite track off of the album. I vaguely get some musical hints reminiscent of Foxing when I listen to this song (mind you, I am a huge Foxing fan), however the sound is extremely unique at the same time. I think I stop breathing each time I hear the line “I am a beggar and you are a maid in the house” because of the way the melody carries those lyrics before being thrusted into a short burst of instrumentation. It’s a stunning, stand out moment for me not only within that track, but within the whole album. Every aspect from the vocals to the lyrics to the instrumentation is on point in this track. I’ve probably listened to it at least twenty times now.
“Venom Room” is the last track I am going to highlight. “Should I think of like the happiest or the s--” interrupted by the lo-fi melody and acoustic accompaniment sets the scene for the remainder of the track. A feeling of nostalgia washes over as I listen and I’m not sure as to why. I can’t figure out if it brings me back to a good time or a bad time or a time of no significance altogether, but it sits with me... as if I’m looking at a distant memory through foggy glass. A beautiful, almost haunting way to end Some Nerve.
Lastly, I will note that there are some really strong narratives and striking lyrical content within the whole album. I often wish I had a full release of all the lyrics, so I can follow along more closely. There are moments where the vocals get hazy, beckoning me to listen even closer-- relentlessly rewinding the song to capture what bits I may have missed. I like the ambiguity of this concept though. It leaves me wondering.
I won’t sugarcoat anything here. It took me a while to get through this entire album.
But over the two weeks that Some Nerve has been out, it’s grown on me. There is one problem I have with the production that I’ll get out of the way: the vocals, in some songs, are wonderful but in others, they can barely be heard. I don’t know if this was a conscious decision or not, but in some songs (“Metal” in particular until about 2 and half minutes in) the vocals seem hidden behind the instrumentation.
Moving forward from there though, there is some very strong lyricism on this record and the vocals are equally as strong. The singer and writer, Beau Brynes, has a brilliant capacity to deliver lyrics with differing tones to fit the mood of each song which is something that I think many vocalists lack or don’t do enough of. The tracks are full of odd narratives and an interesting brand of self deprecation. One lyric that particularly sticks out to me, from “Cut Out”, is “So I’ll pass the time, cut out both my eyes ‘cause you’re right they look nice but yours are better than mine.” Just reading over that, anyone can see that we aren’t dealing with cookie-cutter lyrics here, which is why the vocal production bothers me I think. I want to be able to clearly hear the ideas of the writer. But problems aside, I really can’t get over how much I love some of the lyrics on this record. “Who am I to blur so bright?” (from “Saint”), “Let me be a junkie, swimming through a coma” (from “Echo”), and many others that I won’t spoil for you.
The instrumentation is a strong kind of indie. It’s not waiting for anything. The tone of the instrumentation on this record sounds immediate. The guitars, drums and in one case, cello seem to pull you through the thoughts that the lyrics convey with few breaks in between. Although this is Broken Beak’s first full length, no one should expect mediocre instrumentation here. The guitar tones are lovely, the drums are crisp but not to the point of sounding over-produced, just overall a really great sound.
I’ll end my thoughts on Some Nerve by discussing the closing track, “Venom Room”. The track starts off with a sound clip, of assumably one of the members of the band, saying “Should I think of like the happiest or the s-” and then the acoustic guitar and organ begins. This song is a beautiful closing track. It’s short, but it really wraps everything up incredibly nicely. It personifies the feelings of the record as a whole. It feels nostalgic, just the instrumentation alone makes you think back to times in your own life when you’ve been “able, but just barely. . .” The cartoonish beats at the very end of this track, and consequently the album, are an irony that rivals the needle scratching on a record at the end of “Soco Amaretto Lime” by Brand New. It jerks you from the feeling and puts you back in reality. It’s a clever to end a record that was a perfect decision on Broken Beak’s part.