Nervous Curtains are back with their fourth album, I Tried To Fight It But I Was Inside It. Recorded at Elmwood Studios in Dallas and produced, engineered, and mixed by Alex Bhore, the synth driven trio have delivered one of their strongest releases yet. Earlier this year, they released an instrumental soundtrack to the 1982 supernatural slasher flick, Blood Beat, but I Tried To Fight It has the band back to their primary mission of blending menace and melody. Across the albums seven tracks, the band delivers the soundtrack to our present day dystopian milieu.
Armed with synths, manned by Ian Hamilton and vocalist Sean Kirkpatrick, and drums by Robert Anderson, Nervous Curtains could lazily be lumped into a number of uncomfortably fitting genres. But, the choice of instruments shouldn’t dictate which pigeonhole they fit. Rather, the spirit of these songs cuts across many genres, like post-punk, doom, prog, and thrash metal – without sounding exactly like any of those categories. Aggressive, provocative, and generally spreading darkness and discontent, I Tried To Fight It is a politically charged collection of songs that stands out among the tired and generic.
As Kirkpatrick sings “they advertise the darkest days to enforce their extremist ways,” on “Paramilitary Re-Enactor,” it’s clear that current events have fueled the lyrics. Whether or not your interpretation of the lyrics agrees with the sentiments of our narrator isn’t important. This isn’t a protest album. While there are clearly some lyrical themes that pervade throughout, what’s most satisfying is the overall product. The music, melodies, arrangements, and vocals fuse together to most satisfying results.
Opening track, “Mass Amnesia,” sets the stage for the songs that follow. With swirling synths and staccato keys, tempos shift around the backbeat and atypical song structure. Indeed, verse-chorus-verse isn’t an outline the band follows. Verses are more commonly followed by an unexpected bridge or a rising pre-chorus leads into down tempo drum beat and vocal melody. Throughout the album the synths can either subtly percolate beneath the vocals (“Paramilitary Re-Enactor”), sound like a searing guitar lead (“Mask”), or layer into a cacophony of noise and melody (“Final Scene”). All of this shouldn’t make you think this is some tripped-out psychedelia. The band may subvert typical song structures and instrumentation, but they do so without sacrificing pop-sensibilities. Songs like “People Are Not Reasonable” and “Fatal Flaw” are driven as much by their strong vocal melodies as they are drums and bass lines. What’s more, don’t be ashamed if you feel the desire to dance to “Executioner Privilege.” Sounding like a demented Stereolab, this isn’t the only song that could find a warm welcome on the dance floor.
I Tried To Fight It But I Was Inside It is among the most exciting releases of the year. It is highly recommended to anyone who appreciates divergent tendencies in popular music. Don’t be afraid to recommend this album to your punk, industrial, or metal friends. It might not be what they would typically seek out, but they’ll certainly thank you for the recommendation. This is the music of the connoisseur, not the casual listener.
– J. Kevin Lynch