Album Review: Nervous Dater – ‘Call in the Mess”

Posted: by The Editor


On Call in the Mess, Nervous Dater returns in peak form. The Brooklyn indie group’s sophomore album is equal parts anthemic and esoteric, reaching heights far beyond the low basement ceilings it feels made for. It’s been three years since Don’t Be a Stranger, the debut where they forged their distinct style of high-energy rock that shows up all over Mess. Those years of distance have also given the group plenty of chances to expand their sound. 

While the opening track “Middle Child” is the moment that feels most reminiscent of the group’s classic “Bad Spanish,” with its building start and razor-sharp guitar tone, the track feels elevated. Nervous Dater loves using drums to totally shift a song halfway through, or to use them as an exclamation point, and while everything about the song feels massive, it’s when those drums come in that feels like the starting pistol firing. Rachel Lightner’s vocals remain incredibly strong, conveying all emotion but still cutting like cold steel when needed. Her performances across the record help put great songs over the top, but this feels especially true for “Middle Child”, where she gets to command it as a soft glowing song, and then as a fiery burst.


“Tin Foil Hat” helps solidify the record’s frantic, paranoid tenor. It gives Andrew Goetz a chance to show off his captivating, gritty vocals, and his ability to play up campy, dramatic vocal delivery. The lyrics touch on aliens, magic, and government conspiracy, and create a generalized X-Files vibe within a song that seems to be at its core about a breakup. One of the best lines, “Maybe you could be a necromancer /Reanimating all my dead feelings”, comes the closest to making the subtext read loud and clear. Goetz also gets to front “The Dirt,” one of the most cutting tracks the group has made to date. Mess is an album of wall-to-wall insanely catchy melodies, but “The Dirt” might have the most memorable. The combination of keys and guitar that spell it out from the get-go come back in throughout and help catapult Goetz’ vocals as he delivers searing lines like “And I’ll let this bring me down / Over my dead body in the dirt” and “It’s all I get, but it’s a nice reminder/ That this is what you’re always gonna do”. Any argument that the gap between records was detrimental can easily be eschewed by one listen of “Violent Haiku.” The track starts reminiscent of Remember Sports’ vague country rock tone but builds quickly, and in just three minutes, becomes a total mad dash. By the final chorus, you can’t help but picture how wild any crowd that ever gets to see this is inevitably going to get. It’s a masterwork that is hard to picture a band making without taking their time to perfect it. 


Nervous Dater didn’t need to give listeners any further proof that they absolutely shred, but for fans of massive, catchy rock songs, it’s great news that they did. There have been countless records that music fans have longed to see live as soon as they hear it, but few immediately put you in that headspace. It’s impossible to listen to Call in the Mess without feeling the need to be immersed in a crowd, screaming every line back, the smell of Pabst in the air, and the ceilings uncomfortably low. 

Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great /Phenomenal

Eric Bennett | @seething_coast

The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.