Nerves Junior’s sleeper 2011 debut As Bright As Your Night Light melted down a hefty slice of the indie rock lexicon into a prickly, addictive new mold. But while the Louisville foursome managed to draw upon everything from Porcupine Tree to Passion Pit on its first full-length, the follow-up EP adopts a more consistently somber mood. After fracturing and losing singer Cory Wayne and guitarist Stuart Phelps, drummer Zachary O’Renick stepped up as lead vocalist, filling in the rest of the roster with producer Brennon Staples and percussionist Brey McCoy. On Craters, the newly reconfigured outfit digs up the darker parts of Night Light and fits them with fresh teeth, but can’t quite cut away from a mid-aughts Radiohead groove.
A good majority of Night Light‘s charms arrived in the shape of sardonic confidence; swaggering highlights like “Swimmer’s Ear” rubbed sour riffs against megaphone bleats and subtly marbled synths. By contrast, Crater is all anxiety. Insectile beats skitter across broad organ strokes on the title track before swinging guitar leads rock it to an uneasy finale.
“Intern” boasts the most sinister-sounding hand shakers and finger-snaps you’re likely to hear outside of a Portishead record, but its fuzz-laced finish ultimately rubs off as Hail to the Thief rehash. The most upbeat of the EP’s three songs, “Goodnight Nobody” at least steers its sound a little towards Clinic’s metallic chatter, but fat synths and a sprinkling of faraway bells can’t quite pull Nerves Junior into a tone that’s distinct from their predecessors’.
The Craters EP doesn’t exactly mark a new chapter for Nerves Junior, but it does act as a solid midway point to wherever the band wanders next. Hopefully, it’s out of Jonny Greenwood’s shadow.
Essential Tracks: ”Goodnight Nobody”