I thought we, as a country, had collectively gotten over Devendra Banhart after the bearded one and Natalie Portman broke it off and “freak-folk” went Hollywood (Warner Bros., to be precise). Because apparently, the dudes in Nurses missed the memo. Not only do they call themselves Nurses, and their new record Apple’s Acres, but they honest to God thought it was a good idea to pose as Urban Outfitters Gone Camping. And after giving this thing a whirl, judging a book by its cover gets another big win.
There’s a lot of “young at heart” bullshit going on here. “Mile After Mile” goes for that arrested development as nostalgia treatment that we only let Animal Collective and Joanna Newsom get away these days. When the head nurse whines about how “I’m trying hard to understand / what I’m going to be,” it’s hard not to scoff at their whole shtick. No one appreciates being put on, especially when it’s all about the blessed-out simple life that seems to only exist for the unshowered and unreconstructed. The insistent appeal to embrace a clichéd kind of happiness ultimately backfires and just draws out the cynicism of those who are already having a hard time taking this scene seriously.
It’s a total gimmick, even sonically. Whistles and woodblocks on “Caterpillar Playground” (really, guys?). Wannabe a cappella vocal jamming on “Manatarms.” Piano and tambourine on everything. It’s time to ride that cymbal into the sunset and leave it alone for a bit, because you can only use it to “spontaneously” shift tempo so many times.
It’s hard to deny Nurses’ ambition. They’ve clearly been listening, and taking notes. But between the blatantly derivative style of basically every song and the inherently specious nature of their source material, it’s hard to really take anything they’re saying or playing seriously. By the time they hit “Bright Ideas,” you get the feeling that someone’s playing a joke. The question is, who’s it on in the end – us or them?