The world doesn’t need another Steve Bays. Hell, sometimes just the one is three too many. Nightmare of You singer Brandon Reilly would likely disagree. Reilly’s from the camp of vocalists who believe people actually want to hear bubbly, candy-coated choruses and hiccupped verses of pre-pubescent angst. And listening to his band’s self-titled debut, it’s easy to imagine these formerly hardcore (drummer Sammy Siegler was in Gorilla Biscuits) Long Islanders being four of the six people who actually enjoyed Hot Hot Heat’s major-label suck-fest, Elevators.
On Nightmare of You, the band performs songs largely void of any substance – guitar riff here, bass line there, but nothing every other made-for-MTV rock band doesn’t offer. When Nightmare of You does hit on something good, it’s typically in the form of a chorus that rides its misdirected catchiness like a Slip ‘N Slide down an abandoned well. “My Name Is Trouble” apes the Killers’ plastic synth-bounce that vies for the simple route with a glistening disco-rock hook. (Whatever the kids like, right?) Nightmare of You comes equipped with several cringe moments (the faux-country “Marry Me” and the inexplicably cheesy “Thumbelina”) as well as an unconvincing sense of sexual prowess (“In the Bathroom Is Where I Want You”).
Three times on the album – on “Dear Scene, I Wish I Were Deaf,” “Why Am I Always Right” and “The Studded Cincatures” – Reilly produces a vomit-inducing, demonically wheezy screech. (I actually gagged a little the third time.) The vocal trick might be Reilly’s best impression of the sound a llama makes when it gets bitten in the ass by an alligator. Or it might just be the noise that accompanies Reilly’s “O” face. Either way, it’s no fun and should be buried in cement and dropped to the bottom of Lake Erie.
Perhaps the debut’s most impressive feat is that Rick Rubin protégé Jason Lader produced it. Even arriving with such a pedigree, Lader is getting the producer cred for the first time. But how much can you learn from a guy who produces records by lying on a couch (other than that Rick Rubin is the only person who can do what he does)? Unsurprisingly, Lader’s straightforward production is crisp and minimal. Guitar solos sound like guitar solos. Drums sound like drums. And Lader sounds like he’s two albums away from fading into producer obscurity.
But, alas, cute boys will always sell records (google them, and you’ll fantasize for weeks about, well, googling them). Pile a catchy, Shake ‘N Bake chorus on top of some tightly clipped emo hair and you’re bound to get some fans. Good luck, Nightmare of You. You’ll probably get to make out with some girls (and even some boys if you’re lucky) who, like, totally love that one song you guys play, you know, the one with the chorus. They’ll probably be fifteen, and you’ll probably feel weird about it the next day. But, hey, you can probably write a song about the whole mess.