Nerf Herder – Rockingham

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

Nerf Herder

Rockingham - Golfshift Records

California pop-punk band Nerf Herder has been laying down the nerdy pop-culture references for over two decades.  With a lengthy hiatus and many years separating recent releases, they’re certainly not the most active band in their niche genre, but their legacy runs deep, paving the way for contemporary nerdcore champions like MC Lars before it was cool to be uncool.  As the saying goes, once a nerd, always a nerd, so when the three-chord four-piece emerges from dormancy, so do the now thirty-somethings that once rocked out to “Mr. Spock” and the Buffy The Vampire Slayer theme song back in the 90’s.

Nerf Herder’s crowd-funded, fifth studio full length, Rockingham, offers up a fresh batch of pop-culture references through the nostalgic lens one would expect from a lengthy career.  The boys embrace their aging bodies and minds, maintaining their sci-fi lifestyles and describing the state of nerd-dom as confident adults.  Gone are the adolescent days of hopelessly ogling over girls, replaced with eleven of the most prideful geek culture tracks Nerf Herder has to offer, ideal for long time fans and generation Big Bang Theory newcomers alike.

Even with eight years separating releases, Nerf Herder hasn’t missed a beat.  Flexing their incomparable base of nerd knowledge, the band geeks out early with a smorgasbord of Sci-Fi references in “The Con.”  From LARPing and cosplay,  to “playing settlers of Catan with Stan Lee and Spiderman,” Nerf Herder affectionately describes the exhaustive to-do list of the annual Comic-Con celebration with enough detail and obscurities to suggest they take part in the yearly pilgrimage firsthand.  Others like “I’m The Droid (You’re Looking For)” conquer the challenge of writing a song entirely of Star Wars references, while “Ghost Busters III” skillfully compares the likelihood of a third Ghost Busters instalment and world peace, with pursuing a girl out of their league with references like, “I’ll never be your marshmallow man.”  Like a more consistent and quick witted Bowling For Soup, their humour and catchy 90’s pop-punk know-how never disappoints.

Rockingham becomes a case of balancing the new with the old – appealing to newcomers while honoring the experiences of longtime fans.  For instance, “Allie Goertz” serves as a bit of a love song/nerdy stalker letter to the eponymous YouTube.  While likely familiar to the current YouTube generation, a quick Google search may be required for those of us who have fallen out of the loop.  On the flip side, “We Opened For Weezer” harkens back to what may be termed as Nerf Herder’s commercial glory days of touring with Weezer.  “We opened for Weezer, our video was playing on the MTV2, Pinkerton was getting some bad reviews,” reminisces Parry Gripp, emulating the band’s distinct 90’s vibe in a way only those who lived through the decade could.  Nerf Herder may have never reached the heights or Rivers Cuomo and the crew, but you’ll be damned if you think you can take away the blissful memories of that 1997 tour.  Nerdcore may have a sizeable following today, but Nerf Herder reminds us that it’s bands like them that paved the way.

When all is said and done, Rockingham may be one of Nerf Herder’s smartest and most entertaining releases to date.  If you’re not quite as immersed in geek culture, then you might still be left wondering who exactly Tom DiNardo is and why his minor appearance on Jessica Jones is such a milestone (“Close Your Eyes And Dream”).  But by the same token, Nerf Herder plays into so many inside jokes that unless you’re true nerdcore royalty (and I’m not), you’re bound to miss something.  Thankfully, the sharp writing and undeniable wit mean you’ll be laughing along even if you’re not entirely certain of all the details.  Few bands could orchestrate such a relevant comeback, but twenty years later and pushing middle age, Nerf Herder does just that.