Nemo – Signs of Life

Nemo
Signs of Life

Now that the cable television network VH-1 has thoroughly beaten any remaining fun out of 1980s nostalgia (by the way, it seems, disturbingly, that they’ve started in on the 90s already), it’s easy to forget that among all the campiness was some remarkable pop music. That decade may have been the golden age of the melodic, three-minute song. The Brooklynites of Nemo seem to think so, anyway. The band’s debut LP, Signs of Life, marries happy memories of new-wave with thoroughly contemporary, and refreshingly non-referential, indie pop.

Nemo isn’t really a synth band, though. The echoey lead and quickly strummed rhythm guitars of “Northern Light” recall Cure and Smiths singles, while Luke McCartney’s double-tracked vocals on “Metropolitan” and elsewhere are very much his own. Indeed, Nemo’s musical sensibility is pretty universal, within the universe of pop, that is. The songs are catchy, hook heavy, and up-tempo. They’re as much a thoroughly contemporary indie band as they are an 80s throwback.

Another thing that makes Nemo unique is the use of a dual-frontman format. Multi-instrumentalist McCartney splits lead vocal and songwriting duties with bassist Dennis Tyhacz, but their styles don’t contrast that drastically. Both write abstract, non-narrative lyrics, and both seem content to let the strength of the music, rather then lyrical content, carry the songs.

Of Signs of Life‘s 17 tracks, only three clock in at over three minutes, and two don’t even hit the two-minute mark, but I still feel that despite that brevity, editing a few of these songs would have made the record stronger, more potent. With that many songs on one record, unless each one really brings something new to the table they start to morph into one another after a while.

Nemo’s Tyhacz and McCartney are skilled songwriters with good pop instincts. I’d like to see them tell more concrete stories with their songs, rather than the somewhat hazy, impressionistic aesthetic of these lyrics, but this is undoubtedly a great sounding record.