Nurse's 2004 debut, Walking Past, introduced a fully formed force of formidable range, capable of complex musical and emotional shading. So what do you do for a follow up?
You record the tongue-tying Venti Varietatis, of course. Though this disc doesn't fall too far from Walking Past's tree, it ups the musical ante and offers the listener repeated rewards.
Let's cut to the chase and hit some highlights, starting with "Hibernacula," the disc's opener (and possible winner of Northern Indiana's most pretentious song title): a subdued, strobe-like guitar introduces the song, which opens up with a slippery time signature and plaintive vocal (courtesy of Drew Etienne) that evokes prime 90s Tool but never leans on that band's explosive metal crutch. Instead, "Hibernacula's" payoff is a slow build that somehow evokes October-era U2 in its earnestness. The song's shifting soundscape manages to remain minimal yet painterly in its execution."
"A Horse; A Grudge" builds its foundation on an Idaho-like tension, placing instrument upon instrument until the powerful burst of the chorus comes in. Nurse are the rare band that manages to avoid easy categorization – prog, alt-modern, classic rock – touches and swatches of all relevant genres flit and course through their work without sounding pasted-in or forced. The Police-worthy "Contusions in the Forehead" showcases the subtle and dynamic touch of the band's rhythm section. Drummer Houston Smith combines with Jon Sholl's dexterous and melodic bass to provide a rich counterpoint to Jake McGrew's sparkling, clean guitar line. A breathtaking vocal performance tops the whole thing off. Here, Nurse give a veritable clinic (ahem) on how to push and pull a song's intensity.
Following the minimal yet lush-sounding "Doppelganger," Nurse cut loose with "A Complex Embrace," anchoring the explosive side of their sound to an asymmetrical tempo and undeniable sense of melody. Some bands are analogous to compact cars with small engines being pushed constantly to their limits; "Embrace" proves Nurse to be in another category entirely – the big old V8-equipped model that's capable of powerful outbursts but only shows off its horsepower when appropriate. A little restraint goes a long way, and this band uses it wisely and dynamically.
Nurse have obviously sunk a lot of thought and effort into making sure this record rings emotionally true. The disc, tracked at New Haven's Monastic Chambers, is professionally recorded and performed with a depth and originality that deserves widespread notice. I'll be spinning this one again. Go to www.myspace.com/nurse or www.nursingyou.com for more info.
Copyright 2006 Ad Media Inc.