Sensory Overload: Nervosas

From the November 24, 2011 edition

As fate would have it, Mickey Mocnik began ripping it up in punk bands like New Creases and Heath Deadger a short time before Jeff Kleinman traded the prog-rock bellows of The Slide Machine for the fierce bark of Exwhites. Their paths kept converging: first came the romance (and the inevitable Sid and Nancy Halloween costumes), then came the band together.

The punk-rock couple’s first project together — thankfully no longer called Witches of Kelso, because that name conjures horrifying images of Clintonville moms winking and giggling their way through Heart covers — made its latest appearance Friday at Carabar for Sick Thrills’ album release show. Now they’re called Nervosas, and as you’d expect from a band of this pedigree, they did not disappoint.

Held together by frantic drumming from longtime Columbus rocker Nick Schuld, the band blasted through a quick, purposeful set Friday. It didn’t supplant the players’ other projects in the local music pantheon, but it was an energizing reminder that they can be powerful in many modes.

Exwhites is a bit of a jackhammer; New Creases trades in anthemic pop-punk; Heath Deadger is explosive skate punk informed by hardcore; Schuld’s latest band, Obviouslies, slides all over the underground rock spectrum from power-pop to noise rock; Kleinman’s Gamma World side project, which I haven’t heard, is classified as “sci-fi.”

For Nervosas, these omnivorous punks are attempting a hard-hitting update on seminal post-punk bands like Wire and Mission of Burma. Rigid structures and abrupt stops abound, Kleinman trying his damndest to match his metallic bass chugs with an equally insistent growl.

Like the bands they’re channeling, Nervosas popped plenty of melody into their music without compromising its razor-sharp edges. That chunky post-punk bass was going impressively complex places under Mocnik’s guitar bluster.

No one song stood out — it was all kind of a blur, actually — but the overall effect was stirring. The one letdown was that Mocnik’s singing only surfaced for a few background vocals; I’m extremely curious about what effect her siren call would have on Nervosas’ expertly executed genre exercise. You have to figure it would be positive, whether merely sweetening the deal or setting the whole damn thing on fire.