Either Way

The Nerk Twins

Broken Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Pure pop music is not dead... it is alive and well and is embodied by The Nerk Twins.

The who ? You can blame this collaboration on Jeff Murphy (of the cult-classic pop band Shoes) and Herb Eimerman, who combine their multi-instrument talents and vocals to create one of the most refreshing albums I've heard in years, Either Way.

For someone like myself who knows nothing about Murphy's old band (except for what he's read from Robert Christgau), it might have beneficial to go into this album with a clean slate - no preconceived notions, no real expectations. What quickly blares forth from the headphones is an incredible array of vocals, guitar (with a 12-string sound not unlike The Byrds and Tom Petty) bass and drums, with some piano, banjo and violin thrown in for good measure. Both Eimerman and Murphy are very capable singers, and while each has his own style of vocals, they wisely know which style fits the corresponding song.

The title track is an example of how much fun Murphy and Eimerman must have been having in the studio. Eimerman's tuba-like bass lines reminded me a bit of Free, and his clarinet solo - you read that right, clarinet solo - is just quirky enough to work perfectly. Likewise, the silly sing-song quality of the lyrics is by no means hokey, but makes the song stand out as one of the better numbers on the album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If you're looking for a slice of power-pop like was heard on rock radio in the late '70s and early '80s, then hie yourself to tracks like "What Does It Take?", "In The Middle Of The Night" "On & On & On" or "I Still Don't Love You Anymore". As much as these numbers provide a pleasant flashback, they also keep a sense of present-day to not make them sound like clones - wonderful! (I wouldn't mind hearing a song like "In The Middle Of The Night" make it onto one of the big Chicago radio stations... you listening, WTMX or WLUP? Hey, WKQX... how's about you throwing "Either Way" into the Cage Match?)

At times, the light-hearted mood of Either Way can work in favor of Murphy and Eimerman. Songs like "I'm Broke" are quirky enough to be enhoyable. On a few, like "I Love Jamaica," the same magic just isn't there (and I'm probably the only one who'll say anything, but I found it a bit annoying to have the rain stick keep stopping and starting). "2 Women" likewise loses the magic, taking a theme that could have worked to the band's advantage, while "Ugly" is simply a throwaway track.

But for the few mistakes on Either Way, Murphy and Eimerman quickly redeem themselves with numbers like "Cast In Stone" and "Stay Away". With the help of some of their friends (including drummers Bill Bobrowski and John Richardson), the Nerk Twins sound is rounded out perfectly. (Murphy's brother and fellow band-mate John lends a hand with backing vocals. I'd like to have provided more background, but none of my books or usually dependable Web sites I use for research have been helpful.)

So, if you're a long-time Shoes fan, how will you react to Either Way? Well, I don't know. (Denise Henderson was so pissed that I didn't assign this review to her - she's a long-time Shoes fan, as well as someone who likes to rip into me because I don't seem to like pop music.) My guess is that you'll love this disc just as much - it most likely is a natural progression for Murphy.

Either Way is a disc that restores some of my faith in simple, no-nonsense and, when the mood is right, slightly oddball music that wins over even the toughest ear. Don't let the name fool you - the Nerk Twins mean some serious business. Here's hoping that Murphy and Eimerman win the success they so richly deserve.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Broken Records, and is used for informational purposes only.