When I saw Nurses upcoming album Dracula on the list of releases for this week, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to review it all. I mean, who has really ever heard of Nurses? Maybe their name popped up somewhere in the archives of Pitchfork or Metacritic, but could you tell me your favorite Nurses song? To be honest with you, I had a hard time telling them apart from the Fort Wayne-based unsigned act, Nurse, who happily resides in the underground. Luckily, I was able to find that they are actually Nurses (plural), they are a Portland-based indie rock trio and their last release (2009’s Apple’s Acre) received a 7.4 from Pitchfork! That’s like getting about eight and a half stars in Rolling Stone. So I have more than enough reasons to give it a listen. To be honest, though, I was sold the second I saw the cover art. I don’t care if it’s a Justin Bieber cover band; when your album is named something as cool as Dracula and looks as cool as that (see photo), I’m giving it a go!
After you get a few songs into the album, you kind of lose sight of the “what are they trying to here” mindset and start veering towards the dreaded “where have I heard this before” process. Nurses is certainly a compilation of a lot of different elements of modern music; the Panda Bear sounding do-it-yourself electronic music accompaniments (namely a drum beat program on a loop- more on this later), the new emasculating high-pitched singing of chill and alternative bands, and songs busy with some experimental and unsuspected (for the lack of a better word) sounds. You take all of these combustible elements, bring them together with Nurses and what do you have? A band that sounds unidentifiably different from the majority of indie rock bands I here… all… the…. time. That’s about as simple as I can put it.
The songs are never overtly bad or engagingly good. They’re all just sort of there. Chilling out on our behalf, I guess? Sometimes it ends up being the ultimate slow jam that you want to listen to with your buddies while you’re kicking it on a Saturday night (trust us, we did with “So Sweet” and “Wouldn’t Tell”). But that really can’t speak for the album as a whole. The endless monotony of the drum machine really started to wear on me. I was able to easily recreate the back beat in every single song by patting my hands against my thighs, and it will continually stay on that four or five note loop for the entire song! Even if it was bearable at the beginning it gave the song this really irritating sense of stasis, almost as if I was trapped within it and there was no room for anything new or interesting to happen.
I’m not ready to let Chapman off the hook, though. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that he was performing parody on some of the songs. The rest of the time, he is doing his best to channel some sort of funkier version of MGMT. He compensates for his inability to actually carry a tune by emphasizing certain notes and words with a shrill squeal. Perfect examples of this are on “Fever Dreams” (where he endless yelps “eh eh eh eh” in the pitch of tortured dolphins) and “Gold Jordan” (where he just sounds like a mousy Sammy Hagar).
If you’re trying to put together a box set of music to keep in the background and just hang out to without ever really listening to what is going on, then this is the CD for you. It will never ever distract you, I can promise you that. You can easily sit and do something, shit, anything else for the duration of this album, only occasionally having to look up and wonder, “Haven’t I heard this one before?”