Album Review: Cayetana – Nervous Like Me

Cayetana don’t fit in with the most notorious Philadelphia rock bands to emerge of late: The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and the Violators, Strand of Oaks. But, what the three punk rock mentality purists in Cayetana have in common with their city mates is a debt to the past and willingness to push beyond revivalism in order to create music that sounds necessary — separating themselves from similar-sounding bands by simply doing things better than their competitors.

Those competitors (or more likely brothers and sisters in arms) are clear from the opening seconds of Nervous Like Me: Speedy Ortiz, Swearin’, Lemuria. But after the first verse of “Serious Things Are Stupid”, when the three-piece stomps on its distortion pedals and fans its first musical flames on the listener, Cayetana place themselves apart from these contemporaries. They are willing to be direct — able to create simple pleasures both in the quiet-loud-quiet variety and the loud-all-the-way-through kind. For a band whose bio boasts about their novice musical abilities, Cayetana are not beginners in their music appreciation education and are seemingly experts at giving a new listener exactly what is needed to be hooked.

That being said, not all songs are created equally on Nervous Like Me. Despite the tongue-in-cheek title of the previously released “Hot Dad Calendar”, the song seems to literally be a matter of life and death, with singer Augusta Koch singing the song’s refrain with loose desperation: “You really want to make it out alive.” Likewise, “Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving” finds Koch’s voice hoarse and frustrated. There’s a point on the album’s opening song where Koch even lets out a squeak that is soft and fragile. All these moments on quite good songs humanize Koch and work to create an effect that is quite surprising on a pop punk debut: They allow listeners to care about Koch and care about Cayetana.

Keeping the collection from being deemed one-note is “Favorite Things”, the album’s slowed-down, nostalgic, romantic transporter. It’s a predictable turn for an album full of amped-up ragers, but its predictability doesn’t make it inessential, as the band needed to show they weren’t a one-trick pony. It helps that it is sandwiched between two of the album’s best moments for a run that masks the fact that the album sort of limps to a close rather than sprints to a triumphant finish. This is another difference between Cayetana and the other Philly bands named above. Of course, none of them recently released debuts. In fact, none of them ever released debuts as good as Nervous Like Me, period.

Essential Tracks: “Hot Dad Calendar”, “Serious Things Are Stupid”, and “Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving”


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