Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Pinched Nerve-Mission and Highland

September 1, 2007

Band Name: Pinched Nerve

Album Name: Mission and Highland

Best Element: Beck-ian hip-hop with electronica-influenced beats and confusing vocals

Genre: Hip-hop

Website: www.myspace.com/pinchednerve

Label: Self-released

Bad vocals can totally thrash a release. It’s a sad fact, but it’s also a very true one. You have to either make the vocals work for you or make your music absolutely brilliant to cover for the bad vocals. In Mission and Highland by Pinched Nerve, neither happen, and an album full of enjoyable beats is nearly run into the ground by odd vocals.

Pinched Nerve plays Beck-ian hip-hop with beats that are vaguely reminiscent of many bands: Aphex Twin, Beck, Nine Inch Nails, Black Eyed Peas. Those widespread influences do result in beats that are creative and interesting. Synths play in a lot of the beats, and although they occasionally devolve into meaningless noodling (“Trashstorm”), Pinched Nerve usually knows what he’s doing with the synths. “In the Street” melds a heavy bass synth with cowbell, tambourine, handclaps and NIN-style creepy melodies to great effect. Accordion-esque synths and a good drum groove anchor “Pigeons,” while the various pieces of shaken percussion fill out the beat well.

Where the beats are mostly good with an occasional error, the vocals are the opposite. Pinched Nerve frustratingly employs a variety of vocal tones, never establishing one home tone. On top of that, the lyrics are strange. Chronicling “life in the ghetto,” Pinched Nerve creates raps that occasionally don’t rhyme or have rhythm. It gets really confusing when there’s no rhythm or rhyme at the same time (“In the Street”). The lyrics are observational and bizarre -“Scabs and Mice” is a dialogue about scabs and mice, while “Vicodin, Act V: Judge Judy” is a song about Judge Judy. I would laugh, but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to. Right now I’m just kind’ve confused.

I really don’t know what to make of this release. I really like the beats, but I can’t stand the vocals or the lyrics. Liner notes might help my confusion, but there are none, really. Myspace is minimal, as well. The only thing to do is go to http://www.tallbobsmoke.com/sharing/disco.html and listen for yourself.

Stephen Carradini

Stephen@independentclauses.com

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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