A first, uncritical pass through Hot Nerds’ new five-song EP might leave the listener wondering if they’ve just heard a set of tunes that might’ve helped to round out the not-quite-year-old, not-particularly-long-playing LP Strategically Placed Bananas. After all, the band continues to wear its Arab On Radar influence on its wizard sleeves. But take another listen, and you’ll hear a band taking a significant step forward and actively carving out a new space for itself. Fuck us all if we don’t bother to hear it.
As before, to say that Nathan Joyner’s vocals here summon up Eric Paul’s pissed-pants manchild would be an understatement. Yet, to an even greater degree on this EP, Joyner searches relentlessly for anti-guitar tones—layering filters, ring modulation, octave multipliers, and bit-crushed fuzz with the alchemical experimentation of a tweaker Sonny Sharrock with a Line 6 endorsement. The songs “Belated Brains” and the title track in particular work as strong statements of purpose and remind us yet again that Joyner is one of the most original guitarists (and he would certainly balk at this generic label) in San Diego.
Let’s all admit something: One of the most thoughtful bass players on the Three One G roster is a keyboard player. Alia Jyawook takes the role of the bass seriously. Her Moog synth gobbles up the low frequencies in the stereo field with absolute abandon on “Strawberry Feels (For A Short Period of Time),” and she draws from a variety of gnarly pedal tones, funky octaves, and pulsing chromatics on the title track as well as the closing track “More Lube on the Frontal Lobe.” Also, if I’ve fucked up the nomenclature of music theory, she’s the only Nerd who’ll notice.
When Hot Nerds added Tommy O’Connell a couple years ago, they gave us all some important instruction in the vicissitudes of band formation: If a metal dude wants to be in the goofy project you started with your partner, always say yes. O’Connell’s work here is an extension of the brutal percussive voice—his surprising 16th note blasts that shouldn’t work at all but totally do—that make the band’s previous LP and its current live shows so dynamic and exciting.
Are Hot Nerds asking us to listen closely on this EP? Maybe. But my sense is that they are equally happy to alienate the hell out of us; the song titles, lyrics, and even the arrangements themselves seem to function as inside jokes. As noted above, fuck us all if our ADHD brains can’t make it through a nine-minute EP. But here’s the thing: would you believe me if I told you that the record ends with an incredible about-face: an honest-to- god, mid-tempo, transcendent rock progression? A (dare I say) beautiful riff buried beneath all that noise? I guess you’ll have to listen.
– John Rieder
01. Belated Brains
02. Generic Plans For A New Blunder
03. Faded Ripper
04. Strawberry Feels (For A Short Period of Time)
05. More Lube on the Frontal Lobe