Collateral is a straight-up party album. This isn’t that surprising, since the sister duo that is NERVO have been all about electronic music from the moment they started releasing their own material. While there’s the ever-present threat of a party album falling back on one sound to carry the album, Collateral‘s range of styles is just enough to help it avoid the problem, which tips it onto the higher end of the scale. There’s still a few common EDM problems that the album falls prey to, but on a grand scale they’ve managed to make a solid start.
As their debut album, Collateral collects some of their singles from the past four years, along with six brand new tracks. Rather than showing their growth, it shows off their consistency. Their style of progressive house music has proven to be their desired niche, and hasn’t really changed that much. The album’s tracks are usually solid, with the worst issue usually being repeated structures and a questionable drop here or there, but there are some that truly come off as missteps.
Hey Ricky is the biggest offender, using three female vocalists with their own rougher attitudes but similar voices. It becomes a difficult job to tell them apart before taking their singing and rapping styles into account, especially when vocal manipulation is added to the mix, almost as if the goal were to unite them as one. The instrumental tracks Oh Diana and Rainham Road elicit mixed reactions as well; Rainham Road in general feels somewhat unfulfilling, and never really goes anywhere. Oh Diana uses an interesting beat and does manage to stand out on the album, but the possible vocal samples of Princess Diana and the idea of drawing inspiration from her for a song like this seems tacky, rather than unique.
Thankfully, there are a few moments where they really get it right to balance it out. Haute Mess is, as the title says, a bit of a mess, especially when it comes to the glitchy, siren-filled instrumental. However, the flirtatious and malicious lyrics give the song an almost-sinister vibe that works together to make something really interesting. Even better is The Other Boys: As if getting pop icons Kylie Minogue and Jake Shears together for a duet wasn’t enough of a selling point, Nile Rodgers’ guitar work mixed with the strong instrumental makes the song even better. The lack of a drop makes it feel fresh as well, and Kylie’s vocalising over the middle eight is an even bigger treat. It’s a perfect pop song, which came as a welcome surprise.
A few really strong songs isn’t enough to make it into an amazing album, but they’re definitely welcome in the midst of the weaker tracks. Collateral mostly suffers due to its reliance on EDM conventions, and its failure to venture as far as it probably should have with the sounds it explores; they made an effort, but at the same time it might not have been enough. While it’s not the strongest electronic album to come out this year, it’s also far from the worst. It’s ultimately enjoyable, but the scattered quality of tracks can make Collateral an album to pick and choose songs from, or one more at home at a club or a party than anywhere else.