Brain Worms

Brain Worms

Melbourne quartet RVG were determined to take their third album beyond the confines of the lo-fi indie rock genre. Leaving the safety of their hometown they ventured to London to spend 13 days straight in the studio with producer James Trevascus (Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, The Goon Sax), beefing up their trademark Joy-Division-meets-The-Go-Betweens sound to incorporate elements such as ’80s New Wave (“Nothing Really Changes”), synths (“Common Ground”), and coldwave. Though their sound may be grander, one element that hasn’t changed since the release of 2020 predecessor Feral is vocalist/guitarist Romy Vager’s detail-rich, often darkly comedic commentary on life. On Brain Worms, she walks a particularly fine line between essaying the declining state of the world without wallowing in despair, all the while injecting her observations with dashes of surreal humor. In her most personal moments, her lyrics are as plain-spoken as they are devastating—witness “Tambourine,” a song written during COVID lockdowns in which she had to watch the funeral of a close friend online (“The room is so cold and dark/Your family are wearing masks/I can’t hear the eulogy/The stream is bad quality/And I don’t wanna see you go/Through a tab on Google Chrome”). She casts her view outward just as effectively, having written “Midnight Sun” during the 2019/2020 Australian bushfires while marveling at the conservative commentators who focused more on belittling and attacking minorities than zeroing in on the pressing environmental issues at hand. Meanwhile, the title track essays the danger of being sucked down internet conspiracy rabbit holes. Vager isn’t afraid to embrace dreamlike concepts in her lyrics, particularly on “Squid,” in which she sings of going back in time, standing on an ancient fish and becoming “something like a squid would be...Living in a squid-like misery.” In “Giant Snake,” she refers to convicted serial killer Ivan Milat with a snake draped around his neck, yet it is Milat who regards Vager as the odd one of the two (“Keeps saying I’m the weirdest shit/He’s ever seen/And I guess that’s pretty funny”). That idea of being weird and not fitting in rears its head once more in closer “Tropic of Cancer,” only this time with an air of defiance: “If you think I’m strange/You ain’t seen nothing yet.” It’s a statement of confidence, delivered by an artist and a band growing more courageous with each album.

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