The path that led Nervus to release Permanent Rainbow was not an easy one. It’s also one that has been explored elsewhere and done so well that rather than trying to cover it myself I’m going to point you in the direction of this article by The Independent, which will do the job better than I ever could. It’s an album built on someone trying to find their place in the world and win a battle against demons that only a small number of people can truly understand, and every inch of that comes out in the music.
An idea which might be hard to get on board with when the sweet jangly sound of ‘Oh Joy’ greets as you hit play on Permanent Rainbow. It doesn’t start like an album coming from the place described but instead something that could sit happily alongside Weezer as a summer release destined for BBQs and cold beers. It’s only when you pay attention to what is said that you find the pain.
Take ‘Bones’, a song that is comparable to Biffy Clyro at their more restrained. Lyrics that declare ‘I don’t belong here, I have to get out, good riddance said the voice in my head’ say everything they need to. While ‘A Retraction’ has a more cutting edge to the music and talks of someone not being able to speak out and have their voice heard in the world, at least in the traditional ways.
Every song here covers a personal journey that lead vocalist and guitarist Em Foster has walked, and that makes this album important. Like Against Me’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues, it speaks of things that to people like me are alien. Until that album came along, I had little idea about the problems faced by transgender people, not because I didn’t care but because it was something I didn’t hear about. Bands like Nervus play a part in bringing those to the world, and that adds weight to this music that no amount of airy guitars can take away.
If you can turn off your brain and just listen to what’s being played, then Permanent Rainbow is a joy. It’s full of catchy hooks and the turmoil that is behind its conception only occasionally slips into the music, like at the end of ‘Bend Break’ which swirls away from what came before it. However, to do so is to do it a disservice. This is an album that speaks of issues that the world needs to understand and no matter how many people bob along to the music the fact it will help many others is the most important thing.