By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
Nodzzz' excellent self-titled 2008 debut is on the turntable, and the tunes by this basement pop trio are impatient. They expire at a minute and change. Blink to their beat, and the San Franciscans will rapidly convey you back in time.
Skip around Nodzzz a little. The singsong "Simple Song" catches you in an insistent melody that ticks with tenacity. ("A time is gonna come when you're not young/Hope you give up on that simple song.") You've now exited 2009. You're gleefully aging backward into the late end of the '80s. It's a great time for college rock. University DJs are ushering savvy kids toward the left side of the FM radio dial, the alternative pitch of their playlists still too high for the jocks to hear. The outsiders are a minority cool only unto themselves. Nodzzz' "Controlled Karaoke" hits the sound of the alternative nation's unself-conscious early settlers; the band tosses off nasal non sequiturs ("Microphone works if the sound is good/It will please your friends when it's their turn") and vowel-y fillers, the "bop-pops" and "la la la"s inflating the song with helium where other bands just have hot air.
Pick out the sticky nougat of those choruses amongst all the nutty observations. Feel that double-guitar jangle moving at the speed of excitement. Hear the thrifty production values and remember fondly constructing mixtapes, the hiss of those cassettes paralleling the band's press-play-and-go attitude.
Nodzzz pushes you further back. Now you're in high school, a mental urban rebel in a suburban geek's body. Maybe you smoke a little weed, a habit that helps feed your wisecracks. (On one single, not included on Nodzzz, the band gives your minor misfit attitude an anthem, chiming in with "I don't wanna smoke marijuana/I just wanna get high.") You imagine yourself much like they sound: too smart(ass) to be real trouble, but too restless to roll with the honors classes much longer.
You don't hate your parents. That'll come later, along with the impulsive black ink on your arm. For now you've realized you're just kinda smarter than mom and dad — and maybe everyone else in your sex ed class, as verbalized by "I Was My Parents' Vision" ("I was my parents' vision when they could not sleep ... I was a memento of my dad's mojo").
Your anti-establishment anthems aren't by Black Flag or the Jesus Lizard, but the weirdos offering more horseplay, less hostility. Camper Van Beethoven. King Missile. Violent Femmes. The K Records catalog. Dead Milkmen. Nodzzz. They all peddle measured absurdity.
Nodzzz gives you a "Contact High," intent on word acrobatics over voicing a revolution. Try to follow their mantra — they'll just spin you silly inside verbal dead ends. ("In the city there's something to prove, but nowhere to move/You got no money? Beat it, buddy, or stand there shining shoes/Contact high!")
Young, transient tribes gather in Nodzzz songs — all high spirits and no expectations. Remember the all-ages shows where the boys wore '50s prescription eyeglass frames and girls donned dad cardigans? Remember getting your heart teased with, just a bit? Hear the adolescent flush and tug as "Losing My Accent" begins ("I was in bed in the Northwest/With her hands on my chest/Losing my accent/And she swears she did not take it ... think I traded it for rent.")
Trace Nodzzz' time warp further, and by now your flirt buddy belongs to someone else. The trio's Band-Aid for your ego bruising is its good humor: On "(I Have) Bad News," they know further disappointments are in store ("I have bad news for the good guys/The games we're playin' is gonna last a lifetime") so you may as well join in the perky group whistle. It's much more fun than moping.
The needle is almost done racing across the vinyl. You have one minute and four seconds of Nodzzz reverie left. The band closes out with "City Has No Eyes," yet another coded communiqué easily translated ("When I move back to the land/Holding no one's hand/Gonna use the city's words/To praise the dirt"). The message is as clear now as it was back with the bands Nodzzz evokes in every song: Don't try to make too much sense of us or this scene. Just feel the tunes and have as much fun as possible.