After five years, Kevin Nolan is finally back with sophomore album Let’s All Get Nervous. While his critically-acclaimed debut, Frederick and the Golden Dawn, was composed, performed, recorded, mixed and produced entirely by himself, Nolan has enlisted a litany of collaborators for this record. It’s a sort of who’s who of Dublin’s underground music scene—Vyvienne Long, Mik Pyro, AlabasterDePlume, Susanne Wawra and Cursed (Peter) Murphy.
The album tells the story of ‘The Dead Beat’, the titular character of the album’s opening track. ‘The Dead Beat’ is a tragic figure “searching for a song that’ll save [his] soul”. Here, Kevin Nolan gives us a glimpse of his sonic and lyrical palette—a dash of Lou Reed transgression, dabs of disturbing narrative and subtle romance ala Nick Cave, all with the reckless abandon of a Tom Waits. Picking up the pace and density at the three-minute mark, it’s certainly a difficult one to box off. There are elements of Gothic rock and funk in equal measure, but it’s all awash with reverb and electronic effects.
Along the way there is romance, art, philosophy and literature on ‘A Human Story (Stet)’, a free-form take on Americana on which Mik Pyro of Republic of Loose provides a fitting foil for Nolan. Elsewhere, star-crossed lovers take in a smoky jazz bar night on ‘The Reception of an English Play in Paris’ before we get completely lost in ‘The Frozen Present’.
Things get really dark on album highlight ‘Bow The Lyre’, which merges drum machines with psych-rock guitar freakouts. It sounds like The Stooges gone industrial, with the intensity doubling at the song’s midway point.
We get lounge lizard, piano-driven crooning on ‘Ich Tame Dich Ein’, where Wawra joins Nolan for an unsettling, jaunty affair. Following this, ‘The Coming of Complete Night’ is a strong finish. Laid back and bluesy, Nolan boldly presides over a breezy, walking bassline, slick rhythm guitars and perforating, wailing licks, all impeccably arranged. It’s a level of dangerous cool that hasn’t been heard since Alabama 3 opened The Sopranos.
Idiosyncratic and daring, Nolan is certainly unafraid of being the odd one out—a feeling which pervades Let’s All Get Nervous.