The now Portland-based psychedelic pop band Nurses have always had a sound peculiarly their own. While inevitably adjusting themselves to the music around them, Nurses have also long channeled some of the more ‘carnivalesque’ sounds of the 70s and 80s. In their past two albums, they’ve evoked bands like The Cure and their psychedelic pop album The Top, post-Oceans Artery, and practically the entire catalogue of The Birthday Party. It’s certainly been interesting to follow their musical progression over the years, and on their third album Dracula, Nurses give us reason to keep following by taking their sound in an unexpected direction.
Dracula represents as much a significant aesthetic detour from second album Apple’s Acre as the latter did from debut Hangin’ Nothin’ But Our Hands Down two years ago. While Nurses sounded like a slightly off-kilter, Radiohead-influenced, Midwestern indie rock band on their debut, with singer Aaron Chapman alternately sounding like Robert Smith or every other so-called indie music singer in 2006, Apple’s Acre saw the band embracing the more bizarre and psychedelic aspects of the first album with increased confidence. Dracula, in turn, takes the psychedelic sounds of Apple’s Acre and supplements them with deep, rich percussion; it’s Nurses’ funky dance pop album, and thankfully they’ve also conjured up some irresistibly catchy melodies to complement them.
“Fever Dreams” starts Dracula off with, appropriately, heavy drums and guitars reminiscent of raw, late-70s goth rock such as The Scream-era Siouxsie and the Banshees, until Chapman’s decidedly stylized wailing voice sets a trippier tone. On second track “You Lookin’ Twice,” an intro that recalls either “Lovecats” or “The Caterpillar” from The Cure gives way to Chapman really belting it out over drum-machine-style percussion. Fourth track “Through The Window” slows things down a bit, but only to a trip-hop-like pace, complete with rich, ominous atmospheric background noise, before leading to the melodic liveliness and galloping beats of “So Sweet.” “I’ve Been Trying To Reach You,” meanwhile, has the catchiness, relatable lyrics, and oddly funky swagger worthy of making it this generation’s “Close To Me” — well, almost. Dracula ends with one of the best and most interesting tracks on the album, “Eternal Thrills,” another trip-hop-influenced number that also boasts meandering pianos, evocative synths, and Chapman carrying a hauntingly catchy melody.
Looking back at how distinct each Nurses album has turned out from the previous one, it’s to be expected that whatever the band does next will sound different from what they’re doing now. One couldn’t be blamed however, for not wanting Nurses to change their sound next time around. If they do, let’s hope it’s as fun as what they’ve given us with Dracula.