Review: Broken Beak Soar to New Heights with ‘Some Nerve’
Broken Beak as it was, the solo project of Beau Byrnes, is best compared to a baby bird working up the courage to leave the nest. The band’s first album, Old Evil, delivered a promise of flight that would later be strengthened by an incredible four-song EP called Curse Burner. That release is arguably where the trajectory of this hatchlings’ attempts at flight began to change. It was after Curse Burner that Broken Beak blossomed into something more than just a solo project, pulling from the seemingly endless pool of talent that is Philadelphia and landing a solid lineup that includes Brendan Lukens of Modern Baseball. I still can’t quite figure out if this is the moment that I want to call the wind beneath their wings or not.
We first learned of that line-up with the announcement of Curse Burner getting a cassette release (the other potential wind beneath their wings moment) through Near Mint Records. A few months later, we got a brief glimpse of the band’s soaring new sound with the release of a digital single featuring two new songs — “Deliver” and “Bake.” A few more months passed before Some Nerve was announced, but coming right out of the gate with a song as strong as “Saint” was proof enough that it was worth the wait.
Broken Beak as it is, a full-band with a flair for tactful musicianship and somber lyricism, is a high-flying bird of prey. Some Nerve is an album that feels too well thought out to not have been painstakingly planned — the music goes from a sprawling quiet to explosive and cathartic without warning, and that’s just on the first song. “Matches” starts out as an homage to their previous bodies of work before Beau’s vocals get swallowed up in the body of the full-band. Without question, this was the best possible choice for the coveted opening slot. Not only is “Matches” the longest song on the record, it presents the most crystalline summary of what can be expected from Some Nerve as a whole.
Thanks to Beau’s undeniably idiosyncratic vocals, even the loudest and most energetic moments on this record have this inescapable feeling of sullenness baked into them. You don’t have to look much further than the back-to-back attack of “Cut Out” and “Humble” to find proof of this. The latter of the two starts out with this punchy and unforgivingly infectious guitar riff before being met with shouty vocals that melts together into a slowed version of itself around the one-minute mark. That one-minute mark, for those curious, is more than half of the song’s run-time. There’s something about the delivery of these songs [see: “Cut Out” and “Deliver”] that makes them feel like that just shy of one and a half minutes is more than enough to effectively communicate whatever it is they need to.
It’s these short moments that make the longer songs feel more grandiose. “Metal” is the second song and final song on Some Nerve that passes a three-minute runtime. It also feels like the official start of the back-half of the record, even though it’s the seventh of ten songs to make the record. It’s got this grimey quality to the musicianship and the vocals, but it maintains a level of sharpness and charm that makes it undeniably a Broken Beak track.
We’re also re-introduced to “Deliver” on this half of the record. The track was re-recorded to fit the vibe of the album, with a few small changes here and there to aid in the cohesiveness of it all. This is right before the lo-fi flirtation of the album’s final track. “Venom Room” captures all of the lo-fi glory of genre staples like Teen Suicide and Elvis Depressedly and still manages to not feel out of place in it’s home. It’s quick and dreamy, carrying you through to the end of the album with ease. It gives the record a dream-like quality, but thankfully, Some Nerve is a dream that you can relive from now until you’re old and find yourself in a venom room of your own.
Earlier, I referred to Broken Beak as a bird of prey. I meant that. Some Nerve is an album that you will fall in love with from the second “Matches” starts to play. This is the kind of record that will flirtatiously stalk your top-ten lists before it suddenly becomes one of the strongest contenders for your album of the year slot.