Somewhere in a shiny, glass fronted building there must be a ministry of muso jibber jabbery that sits with a focus group of pseudo Nathan Barley’s and is charged with devising puffed-up, nonsensical sub-genres, scenes and movements. It’s the only logical way to account for the steaming pile of Math Rock, Reggaeton, Yacht Rock, Freak Folk, Sophisti-pop, Screamo, Cowpunk, Nu Rave and most facile and vacant of them all Casiocore (a short-lived DIY, keyboard fad). Next from the school of “eerrrr… Monkey Tennis” ideas, US indie scamps Small Reactions give the world a concoction that they call ‘Nerve Pop’.
Frantic, jittery and rampant with metallic choppy guitars and a speccy awkwardness, the tag kind of makes sense despite its skin-crawling nature. Small Reactions debut album Similar Phantoms tours the lo-fi indie landmarks of new wave noise barons Wire, the shoegaze fuzz of My Bloody Valentine and Britpop’s more ragged edges, and through a pained blizzard of feedback and sprawl kicks out bouncy, pogoing, mosh starters. It’s probably more proof that everything in popular music has been done already and all that is left to do is regurgitate and repackage the past, but when the reference points are driving Krautrock, jangly Scottish indie and post punk grime, then the results are so gloriously scuzzy, it’s pretty easy to lose yourself and forgive.
Nineties, Anglo-French, cult favourites Stereolab is the other key influence, and the Atlanta four-piece pay homage to their ghostly dream pop melodies and shy, oddball insouciance on revved up, pace setters Hung From Wire and Mid Century Squall. Keepah too could easily have appeared on a cassette tape compilation given away free with a copy of Melody Maker in around 1989, whilst frontman Scotty Hoffman adopts a distorted, slightly more tuneful, Julian Casablancas drawl on Terrorangles. It’s one blasting exercise in fuzzy, roaring static that pits Small Reactions alongside contemporaries such as Deerhunter, Eagulls, Parquet Courts and Crocodiles.
What perhaps sets them apart is the lack of a slouching, outsider persona or any hipster posturing, just a nerdish love of indie obscurities and an unabashed flurry of pop melodies and dark romanticism that runs through their garage guitar dissonance. It’s a great mix that rages and swoons in equal measure on what is a barnstorming, chaotic, frazzled, rush of a debut album.