As we all know, pleasure and artistic efficacy exist on an inverse traction. He**, just examine the charming Nap Eyes lyric on album opener “Every Time the Feeling”: “I can’t tell what’s worse / The meaningless / Or the negative meaning / I’ve figured out a way / To get on with my life / And to keep on dreaming”.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: this decade is all about yoga (the pants and everything else), having the “eye of the tiger” and “tearing it up in this city.” I can’t drag all this negative energy into the tournament. Well, you’re in luck. Apropos, I remember one exchange between Pitchfork’s Brent Dicrescenzo and Ryan Schreiber (whoo those names are a mouthful), somehow transcribed by one of them, on first hearing Modest Mouse’s depressing lyrics and saying “Any other band would have set this to mopey minor chords.”
But then, we should I guess expect a seasoned indie savviness from Nap Eyes (no relation to Frog Eyes that I know of). They are after all the recipient of Canada’s 2016 Polaris Music Prize, hence apparently earning them a page in Wikipedia (it’s certainly not for notoriety in the States, that’s for sure). But then, this music is anything but Modest Mouse. Almost oppositely, Nigel Chapman croons in with this very measured, studied and melodic sustain, so much so that I almost dubbed it Father John Misty and tossed it aside. Luckily, I think these guys actually play instruments — an interesting array of classic rock influences like The Stooges, Jim O’Rourke and Weezer pronounce themselves right away on the opener, so that this can play as bona fide summer festival rock.
Regretfully, title track “I’m Bad,” before a promising start of whirly electric guitar strums and big, booming but methodical snare, thins out really quickly into vocal ennui and generally just unfinished garage-rock patchwork, lacking the energy of Fu**ed up and the purposefulness of The Arcade Fire.
On “Judgment,” however, Chapman’s mellow, preternatural baritone is much more appropriate, as we’ve settled down from the Crazy Horse groove into ambient tension on the part of the rhythm section — static, mezzo-piano snare eighths tiptoe in back, as if wary of being noticed by this sensitive siren in front. A vague sense of the rustic is summoned by the stanza “If there’s a right road / Won’t you show me / But please don’t ask me / To throw my work away”. Sure, Nigel, I won’t. But make sure your work is really yours.