American Nervoso is Botch’s oft-overlooked, nearly always underrated first proper record. It appeared via seminal avant-hardcore label Hydra Head Records in 1998, and since about a year later, when the band released their best known album We Are the Romans, American Nervoso has dwelled in its shadow, like the ugly friend from Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings.
Nervoso is the album that effectively introduced the Botch fans came to know and love to the world. It was the band’s first clear, well produced recording that captured all of their twangy, twitchy, bouncing chaos. From the staccato guitar scraping and off-kilter drums that introduce album opener Hutton’s Great Heat Engine to the trudging, gritty bass riff of penultimate track Hives, this whole record is definitional Botch – not vintage or classic, but foundational. The blistering, asymmetrical diatribe that followed with We Are The Romans could not have been written without the mission statement of American Nervoso.
My first exposure to this record was when one of my friends let me borrow the 1999 Hydra Head Records cd sampler to copy – because, back then our tiny rudimentary internet would only let us stream songs via RealPlayer at 4 kb per month and all the songs sounded like they were being played underwater, that’s why.
Anyway, on that blessed Hydra Head sampler was the now legendary Botch jam Thank God for Worker Bees. I remember skipping over the track repeatedly in order to get to Coalesce’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog a couple tracks further in, and also because the entire first minute or so of …Worker Bees is just the band playing as heard through a shitty room mic, all tinny and static. It took me about 3 weeks before I had enough patience to listen through to the point where the song blossoms into a quintessential specimen of chaotic, dissonant heaviness. By the time the song hit the three minute mark on that first real listen, I was sold on Botch and American Nervoso and I went to the record store and bought it the next day. I would listen to that track over and over, pissed that I had to wait through the first minute of bullshit to get to the good part, and simultaneously in awe of the fact that Botch had obviously recorded it that way on purpose for that reason. It was like an audible middle finger followed by a hug, and forever cemented Botch in my tiny black heart.
Bottom line time: The Botch of the pre-Nervoso era was a little bit less put together, a little sillier – having covered all sorts of weird stuff like Rock Lobster and O Fortuna (that O Fortuna cover did rule though), and were clearly still a band feeling around in some murky water for a real identity. Post-Nervoso, they solidified their place in the annals of hardcore/metalcore/mathcore for their intelligent, scathing, chaotic sound along with their tongue in cheek approach to a self-serious genre. American Nervoso sits directly in the sweet spot of their discography as the band discovered who they were and pushed the pedal down to the metal to start their journey. Its an album you should spend some more time with.
Fall in love with it again, for the first time: