If you were to judge solely by iTunes playcounts, Nightmare of You's self-titled 2005 debut is my favorite album. It's also the first record I ever bought on vinyl. Sounding like an amalgam of the Jam and the Smiths, the LP contains both insanely catchy hooks and delightfully twisted lyrics. The last time I saw Nightmare of You was in Hoboken in August 2009 to support their second album, Infomaniac. The album was disappointing to a lot of fans, and by that time, half of the original band members had departed. That December, frontman Brandon Reilly announced he was leaving for Italy, and the band would be going on an indefinite hiatus.
Fast-forward to 2012: Reilly has returned to the U.S. and Nightmare of You have released two singles "Out of My Mind" and "Give Us a Kiss" via their website. When I heard Brandon was headlining a free show at Alphabet City's Idle Hands, I knew I had to go, packing for my Thanksgiving trip home be damned. Though I'd seen his Movielife band member, Vinnie Caruana, perform solo twice this year, I'd never seen Reilly onstage without at least his bandmate, Joe McCaffrey.
I got there a little early, in time to hear one of the lame opening bands cover the Spice Girls' "Wannabe," modifying the lyrics to "Tell me what'cha want, what'cha really fucking want," which excited nobody except for one drunk girl in the corner. They had the limited edition Brooklyn Defender on tap so I gave that a whirl (Disappointing, by the way.), and watched the Knicks dominate New Orleans.
After taking a few minutes to tune his guitar, Brandon, looking more adult with his bang-less haircut, asked, "Hey, how's it going?" and jumped right into a new song. Mainly consisting of the lyrics "I'm so fucking mad, will you be my punching bag?" it wasn't my favorite, but it was also hard to hear it clearly.
You see, Idle Hands may be one of the worst venues for a concert I've ever been to. It's a basement bar with a stage raised about a foot off the floor. No lights shine on the stage, so it's actually brighter in the rest of the room, save for a three foot-square cutout in the wall behind it, which backlights the performers. Things get even more awkward when the large-Afroed DJ hangs out in the hole during the set. There aren't enough tables for it to be table-seating, and not enough open floor for it to be standing room only. The narrow spaces between tables are the places to stand, and that's only if you don't mind the incessant chatter from the rest of the room. It's a bar. Don't let the band posters on the walls fool you.
Obviously not the ideal spot for a concert, it's hard to give a real review of the performance. "I Want to Be Buried in Your Backyard" and "The Days Go by Oh So Slow" had a select few upfront mouthing along the lyrics, and "Heaven Runs on Oil" sounded a bit country-western on acoustic. I found myself missing McCaffrey's vocal harmonies and melodic guitar solos, but also absent were Brandon's pterodactyl-like screams that punctuate many NOY songs. New song "It Takes All Types" was more developed than the opening number, and I can't wait to hear a full band version. "Without the trash, there'd be no pearls," sang Reilly, keeping with the theme of that same scornful beauty from which he finds so much to exhume. "Thank you so much for coming. This is gonna be my last song," Brandon said, and finished up with Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," which captured some attention from the bar. Maybe open with that next time?
Nightmare of You will be playing a full band show on January 19th at Ollie's Point/Revolution in Amityville. I may just have to take a trip on the LIRR and get some more plays on the iPod.
BRANDON REILLY - 11.20.12 - IDLE HANDS (26 minutes, 40 seconds)
Punching Bag* / I Want to Be Buried in Your Backyard / The Days Go by Oh So Slow / Ode to Serotonin / Heaven Runs on Oil / It Takes All Types* / Marry Me / In the Aeroplane Over the Sea