Live review... Nervous Conditions
On the 30th January, it was the turn of the Blue Moon pub to host the ever-more infamous local 6/7 piece act Nervous Conditions for the first time. The Cambridge act are gaining critical praise for their abrasive sound and powerful stage presence, meaning the annoyingly overused ‘buzz’ has grown rapidly in the past six months. Supporting the Radio 6 darlings The Drink, the gig was to be well attended, with ‘N.C’- as they are affectionately known by their 2 hard-core fans, playing a forty-five-minute set. What ensued in the following hour was a thumping slice of intense guitar, dissonant sax, rhythmically droning bass and a mixture of screeching and crooning from the enigmatic frontman Connor Browne. This band have a sound like no-other, a neatly formed blend of power, pace, discipline, energy and a brooding attitude, a sound that bands like Eagulls and Parquet Courts could only dream of harnessing. The set began with Theme, which included a dramatic late entrance from Browne two minutes into the track- pint clasped and adorned in a treasured West Ham scarf, an abandonment of the glamour and vintage-chic crassness adopted by the current crop of flimsy neo-psychedelic chronic bores of the ‘indie charts’. Theme set the tone for the evening, a melodic bass-line accented by choppy guitar and an all-round chaotic volume generated largely from their dual-drum set up. Green Hills and Majesty followed, both adding to the snarling atmosphere the band generate with their piercing loudness, Tyler Hyde’s bass playing a particular highlight in these two tracks. Yet, there was a sense of more to come- the build-up and tease which would lure the crowd into the grandiose ferocity Nervous Conditions have the potential to hit when in full stride.
Full stride they duly hit with the remarkable Village Mentality- the now established centre-piece to their sets. Village Mentality bares the hall-mark change of pace that is often attributed to the Fall, but this is where the now tedious comparisons with The Fall end. The track hit a soaring peak, with the band seemingly in pain as they stabbed away at their respective instruments, Browne appearing delighted with the muscular ferocity of the guitar blending into the flowing James Chance-esque sax. Nervous Conditions are a band who, despite any growing hype, are clearly relishing the chance to create a unique sound completely unaffected by any heightened expectations from lazy NME writers who feel the word ‘idiosyncratic’ will elevate their writing to Hemingway and beyond. They are playing with freedom, and a swagger that takes many bands years to grow into. The set meandered into fuzzy raucous musical nihilism, their traditional curtain-raiser Conspired Analysed provoking fierce foot-tapping. However, it was their final track, By The Time I Get to West Winch that was the highlight of the performance. The track descended into pure chaos, the pounding drums failing to falter in pace, guitar slashed at and the sax provoking an animal howl throughout. West Winch racked up to well over 10 minutes, quickly turning into a Stooges-esque jam of monumental proportions.
Comparisons are easy to make, but they rarely hit the mark. Nervous Conditions cannot be pigeon-holed. This is not post-punk, or art-punk or indeed neo-krautrock. This rock and roll at its most decadent and confrontational, rock and roll in its most abrasive and challenging form. Their instrumentation is tight, yet their spirit is unhinged. Nervous Conditions are perhaps the most interesting new band in the country.