With its quick and dirty garage rock sound and spastic punk energy, “Hard to Explain”, the first single from The Strokes’ 2001 full-length debut, didn’t just serve as many listeners’ introduction to the band, the song reignited an interest in a garage punk style that’s still inspiring bands and artists two decades later. Immediately after the success of Is This It via “Hard to Explain”, The White Stripes had their first U.S. hit with the super-short, energetic “Fell in Love with a Girl”. Similarly, Domino Records launched Arctic Monkeys’ debut with the stomper “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” to great acclaim in 2005, and on and on. Then there are the bands and artists who took the “Hard to Explain” blueprint and, instead of using it as a one-off springboard with the hope of attracting instant recognition and immediate likability, built their entire sound and discography around it. The Austin, Texas fuzzed-out power pop quartet Warm Soda milked it for four LPs in the twenty-teens. Merge Records recording artist Mike Krol has also used the formula for, thus far, four full-length records, the latest being 2019’s excellent Power Chords. This brings us to 2022 and Weird Nightmare.
Weird Nightmare is the solo project of Canadian punk trio METZ’s guitarist and vocalist Alex Edkins. With a simple analog synth-sounding preprogrammed beat, “Searching for You”, starts things off deceptively lowkey for three bars before Edkins’ distorted guitar kicks in with a Chuck Berry style slide, and we’re off to the races. “Nibs” pulls things back tempo-wise with a woozy lead guitar line running just under Edkins’ shouting at the top of his lungs. The wonderful power pop single “Lusitania” follows and is reminiscent at times of the best and catchiest moments from bands like the Replacements and Big Star. Bully’s Alicia Bognanno offers vocal support during “Wrecked” and her presence tempers Edkins’ manic shout nicely.
“Darkroom” opens Side B in a style similar to the record’s opener. As its title suggests, “Dream” offers a shoegaze-inspired warped wall of distortion. The album’s penultimate track, “Oh No”, arrives just after an odd, acoustic interstitial moment. The lovable Canadian indie rock weirdo Chad VanGaalen guests on “Oh No”, although his presence is difficult to discern on initial listens. Weird Nightmare’s first record is concluded with the nearly eight-minute track “Holding Out”. A ballad only in regard to tempo, “Holding Out” begins with a distorted, gray, hazy feel that soon brightens and offers a pleasant, repeated melody in the song’s second half.
Alex Edkins’ project offers plenty in terms of energy and intensity. Other than the shouted choruses, most of the lyrics on Weird Nightmare’s self-titled debut LP are buried and obscured in the dissonance. If you favor raw emotion over intelligible lyrics, you’re going to find at least a few moments to appreciate on Weird Nightmare’s debut. Those weaned on The Strokes’ debut as well as the garage rock/punk-inspired singles of the early aughts may be able to overlook Weird Nightmare’s style over substance. If, however, you’re in the market for something more rewarding, take “Lusitania” and “Wrecked” for a joyride, then ditch Weird Nightmare and spend your time and money on a Mike Krol album.