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Doctor Nerve


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Doctor Nerve Armed Observation album cover
4.36 | 15 ratings | 5 reviews | 33% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1987

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Out To Bomb Fresh Kings (1:24)
2. Mister Stiff Fries A Dozen (2:54)
3. Sister Cancer Brother Dollar (2:33)
4. I Am Not Dumb Now (3:32)
5. Keine Jazz Platte (0:10)
6. Don't Be A Hog (1:37)
7. Not Everyone's As Rich As Your Parents (4:58)
8. Electric Guitar Solo (0:18)
9. Three Curiously Insubstantial Duets
a) I (1:11)
b) II (1:13)
c) III (0:48)
10. Portland Applauds The Radio (0:11)
11. Atypical Tiple (1:47)
12. Wir Sind Dickhauter (1:53)
13. Don't Worry Do (4:48)
14. "That is when they start to have their own way that is when they start to get out of hand" (7:16)

Total Time: 36:32

Line-up / Musicians

- Nick Didkovsky / guitars, treatments
- Samm Bennett / percussion (15)
- Anne Brudevold / electric violin (16)
- Dave Douglas / trumpet (1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 14, 15 & 16)
- Yves Duboin / saxophone (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15 & 16)
- Mike Leslie / electric bass (1, 2 & 4)
- Michael Lytle / bass clarinet (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 14, 15 & 16)
- James Mussen / drums (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 14, 15 & 16)
- Kyle Sims / electric bass (3, 6, 7, 14 & 16)
- Marc Wagnon / vibraphone (1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 14 & 16), percussion (15), piano (16)

Releases information

CD Cuneiform Records
Re-released as a 2 album on 1 CD along with their first album
The cover presented here is that of the re-release.

Thanks to avestin for the addition
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DOCTOR NERVE Armed Observation ratings distribution

(15 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(33%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

DOCTOR NERVE Armed Observation reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Doctor Nerve is one of the more obscure RIO/Avant bands from the US, it seems. For people unfamiliar with this band (leaded by guitarist/producer Nick Didkovsky), they play a complex form of something that could be called "Punk/Jazz/Avant/Fusion". Their second album, titled "Armed Observation" was the first release that really stated their sound that would be notable on the next few releases (their first one, "Out to Bomb Fresh Kings", was similar, though less focused.) Totally bizarre time-signatures with often wood-wind dominated melodies and a good dose of weird humor, kinda comparable to Frank Zappa's instrumentals during albums like "The Man From Utopia" or "Them or Us", is the best way to describe this one. Besides this, it also has a great flow to it, and except for a few noodling guitar tracks, it rarely get's boring or uninspired. The superb and eclectic instrumentation is also a plus for this album, not to mention it's clever and intricate arrangements.

Although it's not very long, this album shows a surprisingly great variety in terms of songwriting, though all songs are in the same style to each other. Any RIO/Avant lover should appreciate this work. It's not directly easy-listening, but it still has very high qualities. Highly recommended to any open-minded RIO/Avant head who loves stuff like Zappa, Eskimo etc. Don't be a Hog, check it out! My rating: 4.5/5

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars Back in 1987, during the dark years for progressive music, in the record store I worked in, we received a shipment of records from Cuneiform. In it was albums from Forever Einstein, Univers Zero, and Doctor Nerve. My life was changed. These were some of the most fantastic bands I had ever heard. And two, Doctor Nerve and Forever Einstein were going to play soon in a local club! There was hope for the prog fan.

This Doctor Nerve album is a masterpiece of RIO, sounding something like a big band version of Birdsongs From The Mesozoic with a big helping of Zappa. The music, all composed by guitarist Nick Didkovsky, features horns, vibes, violin, bass and drums playing frenetic music, often with unusual time signatures all piled on top of one another. If this is hard to picture, than you are on the right track. This music, although with the references I listed above, sounds like nothing you've ever heard before. It's worth hunting for.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Unlike most I prefer the debut to this the followup album released in 1987. I must say though that the three longest tracks on this one are killer and they make up almost half of the album. Again Didkovsky and company offer up a complex array of horn and guitar infested music while the drums and bass add a powerful foundation.

"Out To Bomb Fresh Kings" is uptempo with the horns honking. Nice bass and guitar too. It blends into "Mister Stiff Fries A Dozen" where the guitar leads and it stays uptempo. Drums and bass join in then dissonant horns.

"Sister Cancer Brother Dollar" has these strange vocal expressions and I love the bass / drum section too. Horns and dissonant guitar follows. "I Am Not Dumb Now" has this pulsating soundscape while "Keine Jazz Platte" is a brief German spoken word piece.

"Don't Be A Hog" features more music and more spoken words as horns end it. "Not Everyone's As Rich As Your Parents" is a top three for me. Drums, horns, bass, vibes and more lead the way. I like the horn and drum only section 3 minutes in. Big finish.

"Electric Guitar Solo" pretty much sums it up while "Three Curiously Instrumental Duets" follows.The second part is Chamber-like. "Portland Applauds The Radio" is a brief sample. "Atypical Tiple" has these intricate guitar sounds.

"Wir Sind Dickhauter" is better as we get a much fuller sound. Some vocal expressions too. Very complex stuff.Vocals end it. "Don't Worry Do" is a top three.We get intricate drums as angular guitar comes in. So good. Horns after 3 minutes.

"That Is When They Start To Have Their Own Way That Is When They Start To Get Out Of Hand" is the final track and my other top three.This one has plenty of violin in it startting after 1 1/2 minutes and it gets fairly dark too. It changes before 5 1/2 minutes as drums and horns take over.The guitar late lights things up.

An excellent album a worthy of a 4 stars rating.

Review by Guldbamsen
4 stars Jazz In Opposition

Coming together at Woodstock, this band sound slightly different than what you'd normally expect from this ancient hippie Mecca. CMS or the Creative Music Studio just outside of New York was a hot-bed for up and coming musicians that dared to be different. Starting way back in 1971, CMS was founded by Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Ornette Coleman, which probably should give you a fair assessment as to how music in general was approached. The focus was largely on contemporary extravagant music - and how one would go about creating sounds and moods that mostly resided outside of the public radio sphere.

The different members of Doctor Nerve all met up at this place with head honcho Nick Didkovsky being the main instigator behind the proceedings - writing most of the music as well as handling the oddly cling clangy guitars. On this their sophomore release, the mood and unique 'Nerve' sound was finally attained - creating the sonic foundation for their future releases.

The music itself sounds like a loose fusion version of Henry Cow. The angular guitar motifs waffle around the atmosphere with a tight and somewhat mad rhythm section pulling the music into strange territories, where things are dissonant and fluid all at the same time. The thing is, that those drums sound like an infinitely long array of stop-starts - whilst the bass zooms very peculiarly and smooth underneath them - gluing this steam engine together like a tight bouncy vessel. Again, I am constantly reminded of Henry Cow with this band - and especially the combination of waffling guitar, stop-start drumming and that zooming bass - strongly echoes the mighty Cow - only much more focused on jazz.

If we're completely anal about this album - it'd be slightly wrong placing them in the RIO quarters, because RIO only really consists of those early pioneers that started playing at the original Rock In Opposition festivals back at the tail end of the 70s. THOSE are the real RIO bands, but the fact of the matter is, that there are many acts since who have carried on the flame - seeking to create music that spit in the face of contemporary radio hits and the whole media culture enveloping them. Doctor Nerve sound uncannily like a true RIO band to these ears, and people who find themselves allured by cling clang chords, dissonance and jumpy bizarre time-signatures should feel right at home with this wonderful band.

Over these aforementioned main ingredients though are some of my absolute favourite sprinklings the album has to offer, which incidentally also speak volumes about the fusion mask this band wears. Wind instruments! Trumpet, saxophone and bass-clarinet! All of these jazzy ingredients roam freely on the offering together with tumbling wild marimbas and other exotic and stuttering percussive spicings. Yes they are free to roam and roar like bats out of hell - yet at the same time they sport a somewhat loose childish approach to things - relegating an unsophisticated and at times purposely naive vibe to the feel. Kindergarden whistling perhaps - only here featured on grown up instruments played with vigour and power - supporting the meaty flavour of the rhythm section and guitar. Other times one of these tooting creatures breaks free in mad dashes that, I'll bet, would have dear old Ornette smiling proudly from ear to ear, by the fact that these youngsters were able to 'get it' and push the envelope - toot like the wind and shake things up effervescently and all over the place like he once did, back when all of this madness was in its pyjamas and but a mere exercise in futility and abnormal beauty. Well Ornette my man, we've come a long way since then, and most people may not feel comfortable around stuff like this, but to those of us who feel invigorated, electric and all tingly inside whenever the sounds of the opposition appear - we truly feel blessed and honoured to have music like this in our possession.

Doctor Nerve probably made Ornette proud - at least they continued the road he once walked - and each time I put this extravagant album on, I am reminded of this bond and heritage. This is essentially jazz in opposition with an affinity for the complex and hard hitting. It tears through flesh like a brute leaf blower, yet somehow all of this strange brutality feels oddly enamouring and bewitching. 4.5 stars and a big box of blue sandpaper.

Review by Progfan97402
5 stars Found a used LP copy of this in a nearby Eugene, Oregon record store, and it really blew me away! I've been aware of Doctor Nerve since 1996, seen them described as something like "For those who no longer find Henry Cow challenging enough". I wouldn't say that, but it's still a wonderful and challenging listen like all the best in RIO. Armed Observation came out in 1987, on Cuneiform Records, a label which RIO seems to be a specialty (and it's nice to see Cuneiform Records is still around cranking out goodies). I remembered 1987 very well, being 14/15 that year. Mainstream music was pretty much a wasteland, you only needed to turn on to MTV or local rock station and get inundated with cheesy hair metal or synth pop. Debbie Gibson and Tiffany released their debuts, and Whitney Houston released her second album, which was equally popular as her debut. If, in the prog world, the best you can do is Big Generator by Yes, you're in trouble (Big Generator was a disjointed mess, and if you enjoyed 90125, you know that Big Generator just wasn't up to snuff). And of course Genesis still riding high from the previous year's Invisible Touch (but then Genesis hadn't really been prog since about the time Steve Hackett left, although you could argue about parts of Duke, though). Anyways, Armed Observation is just what I needed to hear from a 1987 release! Really twisted jazz-influenced RIO, that at times bring to mind the instrumental Zappa and Gentle Giant, both at their most "weird". The King Crimson influence has itself felt towards the end of the album with Fripp-like guitar. What I really love is the jazz approach. In the 1980s there was just way too much fuzak and smooth jazz infecting easy listening radio stations, and you can tell these guys wanted absolutely nothing to do with that, going for more of a late '60s/early '70s jazz influence. There's also a reminder of how Univers Zero may have ended up like if they were more jazz rock inclined. RIO is a genre that I don't always dig, as there is just way too much nonsense and messing about (too many groups trying to be "weird" for "weird's sake"), but I know good RIO when I hear it, and Doctor Nerve is one of those. This is just some crazy and demented stuff. The one Zappa song this album reminds me of is "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue" from Weasels Ripped My Flesh, which was clearly Zappa going full-on RIO before it ever existed! I also really appreciate that Doctor Nerve avoided synthesizers like the plague, as much as I enjoy the sounds of synths, you have to bear in mind this was 1987, and pretty dreadful digital synths were the rule of the day, and these guys clearly wanted nothing to do with that. So much '80s music ended up dated, and these guys avoided those dreaded '80s production tricks that dated so much of the music of the era badly. I can see why this music was called "Rock in Opposition" (I realize the name was coined by Chris Cutler for some 1978 music festivals featuring Henry Cow and similarly like- minded bands), as it was truly "in opposition" to what was popular, where they refused to dumb-down their music to follow fads. Anyways, Armed Observation is truly one of the best albums I have heard from the 1980s and if the description sounds great to you, this is a required album in your collection!

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