I mentioned Nervous Trend in my earlier swipe at Savages, but wanted to give them their own post because I think this anonymous group from Australia (with a singer from Chicago) might be the best rock band in the world. That isn’t some kind of writerly hyperbole that is only meant to capture attention — I actually believe it. Their latest release, “Shattered,” accomplishes more in two songs and six minutes than most rock bands do in a lifetime.
One of my many complaints about music lately is bands who adopt the attitude and style of punk, but don’t actually back it up with any substance. Nervous Trend actually have something to say, and “Shattered” pulses with an urgency that demands attention and lyrics that sharply combine the personal and political. The title track lasers in on how women are frequently seen as not being “whole beings,” using a brilliant analogy of being shattered into pieces: “Which pieces of me do you want today?” singer Jen Mace asks. “Do you see a virgin? Do you see a whore? Do you see a plaything? Do you see a savior?”
The second track, “Decency,” is a scathing criticism of hypocrisy from those who claim to be decent (also known as “the virtue squad”), but spend their time limiting the rights of women. Mace ends the E.P. with her most impassioned vocal delivery, almost reaching a scream: “This is not your proselytizing. This is my life. This choice lies with me. Fuck your decency.”
None of this is groundbreaking material in the world of feminist-leaning punk, and part of why I’ve been less invested in punk lately is that these sort of lyrics can feel like going after low-hanging fruit for easy cred points. This is exacerbated by bands that intentionally sound sloppy because it’s “punk,” giving the impression that they care more about the message than the music. Nervous Trend care deeply about both, and the pointed lyrics are matched by the music itself, which is tight and roars with purpose while being inspired equally by goth and punk rock. Mace also has one of those voices that cuts through everything around it, and she throws herself completely into these songs while sounding melodic rather than shrill.
I’ve often felt like a grumbly baby about rock music lately, but hearing this band reminds me that, when it’s done with this level of skill and commitment, pretty much nothing is better. Nervous Trend have made themselves hard to find with no social media or Spotify, but their music speaks for itself, and those who find it will be moved.