RVG’s Brain Worms is abrasive, beautiful, illuminating and despondent

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RVG’s Brain Worms is abrasive, beautiful, illuminating and despondent

RVG Brain Worms

In the presser for Common Ground – RVG’s latest single and also this album’s jangly, atmospheric opener – singer-guitarist Romy Vager shares, “Something that Sarah [Thompson] from Camp Cope said to me years ago has always stuck with me: ‘No matter what we do, they’re still going to hate us’.”

“I think I’m giving up/ Enough is enough/ You don’t want me…” – from this opening resignation right through to closer Tropic Of Cancer’s final strum, Brain Worms is an immersive, thought-provoking listening experience. There’s exactly zero filler here; every single song is vital and captivating.

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While bushfires ravaged Australia in 2019, Vager poured her frustrations over climate change deniers – many of which steered the discourse towards “how much they hate immigrants or queer people” – into another of this record’s stunning singles: the roaring Midnight Sun.

RVG – which is rounded out by guitarist Reuben Bloxham, bassist Isobele Wallace and drummer Marc Nolte – sound more explosive and instrumentally in sync than ever before on album number three. And Vager’s vocal delivery – frequently tinged with despair – unleashes defiant force as required: “I know what I’m like, and I know how I get/ If you think I’m strange, you ain’t seen nothin’ yeeeeeEEEEEEET…”

There are also occasional moments of gallows humour, which add levity while somehow never diminishing the record’s overall poignancy: “And I don’t wanna see you go/ Through a tab on Google Chrome” – although Tambourine’s Zoom-funeral subject matter hits us where it hurts, we also find ourselves grinning ‘cause it’s just so goddamn poetically put! Then when Vager repeats, “I wish I had’ve said I love you,” at this song’s conclusion – a grand total of eight times – her heartbreak is palpable.

Lyrical repetition is used to spectacular effect throughout Brain Worms: when Squid’s irresistible manic energy ebbs slightly, a hypnotic breakdown underscores Vager’s rhythmic singing (“I’m under the water/ I’m under the water…”). Also, during Nothing Really Changes – a new-wave strut resplendent with synth solo – she repeats, mantralike, “No, I don’t wanna fight/ I don’t wanna fight/ I don’t wanna fight/ I don’t wanna fight…”

Elsewhere: the ferocious title track is about falling down an internet rabbit hole “and finding comfort in conspiracies”; You’re The Reason (“…I can’t have nice things”) – a downcast, downtempo palate cleanser – navigates spiritless, rock-bottom depression; and Vager uses humour to expose the ridiculous (Giant Snake).

Abrasive, beautiful, illuminating and despondent all at once, Brain Worms is as multifaceted as life itself. Can. Not. Stop. Listening! Totally in awe of this record’s brilliance.

Label: Ivy League Records. Release date: June 2