CD Review: Nerd Parade — The Span of a Life

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

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Nerd Parade
The Span of a Life

By Alexandra Edwards

Hearkening back to the days when the
American South was inextricably tied to rock 'n' roll, Nerd Parade's The Span
of a Life
contains the kinds of big sounds and inventive daring that rock
music should be about. The songs would, in fact, make the perfect soundtrack to
Quentin Tarantino's next film — gritty, soulful, searing. Their palate is
wide-ranging, as though they went into the studio with a big grab bag of '70s
rock and punk sounds, shook it up really good, and then pulled out pieces at
will.  But it's also fresh, not so much stuck in the past as acknowledging a
little bit of nostalgia, then moving on in unexpected ways. 

First,
there are the guitars. The lead on the title track noodles along like an Allman
Brothers song; paired with lead vocalist Abby Wren singing about "traveling down
to an old country town, in a beat up sedan tonight," this is Southern rock
revival at its finest. Next up on the album, "Yay, Yeah, Uh-Huh!" takes it a
step farther, cribbing sounds from jazz-influenced blues and rock. But the band
can do more than just this. "How Hard We Fall" kicks up the fuzz for a punk
rock garage jam, then reigns in the reverb for some thumping bass, before
pulling out that huge lead guitar sound again, edging towards Zeppelin-levels of
blistering.

Dynamic shifts like this abound on the album. From
crescendoing opener "Sixty-Eight Reasons," with its slightly Eastern, slightly
psychedelic sound, to the fade out of the final moments, the tracks almost never
do what you might expect them to. For starters, most blend seamlessly into each
other, despite sounding nothing alike. It's a trick that keeps up the tempo of
the album as a whole, as well as helping to integrate all their various sounds.
"Dead Air & Denial" changes up the game halfway through: it begins with a
big, hooky guitar riff (think "Wipeout" as conceived by the session players at
Muscle Shoals). The only time the technique falters is on album closer
"Imagineland." After a strong start, acapella vocals joined quickly by chugging
guitar, the track goes strangely toothless. Luckily, it picks back up before
the end, meaning even the weakest track on the album redeems itself.

For
all their musical prowess, the voices of Wren and Randy Garcia are charmingly
low-key, unpolished in all the best ways. Wren can belt it out, and she
certainly does, but she also restrains herself much of the time. It only adds
to the garage rock feel, better combining all those '70s influences into a
homemade, heartfelt album. If this is what's possible, Southern rock should
step out of the arena — and the past — way more often.

Category: CD Reviews

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