With the group’s original lineup reunited for the first time since their self-titled debut, nerd rockers Nerf Herder take a stroll down memory lane on their fourth disc, aptly titled IV. Songs like “Golfshirt, Pt. 2” and “Dianalee” toss out references to their older material, still pining after the same girls, years after the fact. Remaining hung up on your past in an unhealthy way seems to be the recurring theme of IV. While tracks like “High School Reunion” and “I’m Not a Loser” offer chuckles with a side of cynicism, much of the material (perhaps unintentionally) nails home the point that sometimes the “nerds” who grew up aren’t that much less elitist than those who ostracized them back in high school. The same awkwardness that initially made Nerf Herder so endearing wears thin after awhile when you take into consideration that the motivating factor behind their songs isn’t teenage angst, but thirtysomething bitterness.
The album’s title and the track, “Led Zeppelin Rules”, pay homage to the most ubiquitous band in the history of rock, yet fall short of the brilliance of older Nerf Herder tributes to rock forbears like “Van Halen” and “Pantera Fans in Love”. The bulk of the material on IV tries too hard to fit itself into the classic Nerf Herder formula, only proving that the in-jokes you share with your friends just aren’t as funny to everyone else. On the bright side, there are some solid tracks that offer something fun and fresh, notably “Oh Me, Oh My” with its whirring synthesizers and refrain of “Oh, no! / Holy smokes / Jiminy Crickets / Great Caesars’ Ghost!”, destined for a true, geek rock anthem greatness. Nerf Herder’s music is still as undeniably catchy and filled with bouncy hooks as ever, however, their former lyrical strong suit keeps pulling the same, solitary trick out of the ol’ pony’s feedbag.
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