I didn’t go to prom in high school. I didn’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, for one thing, and my two best friends at the time were occupied with their own significant others. (I’m still friends with one, while the other has become an extremely online quasi-libertarian who I don’t talk to anymore.) Even if I had a date, though, I don’t think I would have gone. The only parties I had been to were a smattering of bar mitzvahs in middle school, and since prom didn’t have an appetizer-laden cocktail hour that was already the main selling point gone.
Besides, I was in no mood to deal with sloppy-drunk teenagers pawing at each other with EDM blaring in the background. Stories I heard about the afterparty, which involved sex, alcohol, and the vomit-soaked center of that disastrous Venn diagram, only confirmed my suspicions. I realize now that I wasn’t too good for prom, and that it probably wouldn’t have killed me to loosen up, but I was never particularly self-aware back in high school (who was?).
“Prom Night Blues” makes me wonder if I was missing out all along. Although the “blues” in the title suggests that this isn’t a fully happy experience, there’s an uplift to the song’s swooning romanticism that makes it feel like the climax of a great coming-of-age movie in the 90s. With its exultant hooks and huge production, “Prom Night Blues” feels like a great memory being made, even as you know it’ll turn bittersweet soon enough.
The song is a bit of a departure for the musical duo behind it, a married couple based in San Francisco called NRVS LVRS (“Nervous Lovers” without the vowels). They describe themselves as a darkwave group, taking influence from artists as varied as Can and Kate Bush with an ominous electro-pop edge reminiscent of The Knife or Crystal Castles. Indeed, you can hear a bit of darkness in the synths, even as they’re blown up to arena-sized proportions, and the vocals of Bevin Fernandez have a sort of gothic presence that suggests she’s an outcast at this particular prom.
But don’t go into “Prom Night Blues” expecting Dead Can Dance, even though a prom song by Dead Can Dance would almost certainly slap. I’m reminded of nothing so much as M83 circa Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, considering the way those swirling synths evoke such mixed feelings of nostalgia. And while there are some shadows to Fernandez’ vocals, she provides much of the song’s emotional uplift with the chorus, where her Victoria Legrand-esque voice swells to a passionate belt.
If it seems like I’m playing the comparison game more than usual this review, it’s not because NRVS LVRS are derivative in any way. It’s just that it’s the natural tendency for a reviewer to draw comparisons between artists, not just for the way they sound but for the way they make you feel. And “Prom Night Blues” makes me feel like I’m listening to something truly great.
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