A humid summer, some cases of beer, and a little bit of inspiration are the perfect ingredients to start a musical endeavor. Nightmares for a Week had it all in the mixing bowl, and in the warm season of 2008, it commenced. Like most bands in their early stages, Nightmares’ influences are worn on its sleeves. Nevertheless, Don’t Die is a sonic treat, full of interesting concoctions that do the band’s array of discernible influences proud.
Don’t Die is one of those rare records that really contain no bad songs. Sure, a couple need some work, maybe there’s a bit of awkwardness here or there, but they have the courage to take chances and even the weakest track couldn’t be described as lackluster. At their best: “Bear Mountain”, one of the album’s more aggressive tracks, where the influence of Against Me!‘s recent “Springsteen punk” is strong (as it is on numerous other compositions here). However, I wouldn’t dare brush it off as a copycat, for its grasp of melody and sound songwriting make for a superb final product. The other tracks that work the best are actually the ones where Nightmares is at its most eclectic, such as “Lightning Rod”, where the group’s inner Chris Carrabba peeks out, only here with a shuffle beat and Americana overtones, shifting into an emo-esque, Days Away-style chorus before unexpectedly hitting us with some Clarence Clemons-like saxophone. Then there’s “Our Vessel”, a near-perfect combination of Mumford & Sons and Aztec Camera. Seriously.
Taking cues from the “Golden Age” of emo (Braid, the Get Up Kids, Hot Rod Circuit, Sunday’s Best), Celtic and UK folk, classic punk like the Clash, modern punk like Dillinger Four, the eternal sounds of the Replacements and, of course, the Boss, Nightmares for a Week is simultaneously derivative and original, right on the brink of finding its exact, own sound. I am confident it is soon to come.