Album Review: Nero’s ‘Welcome Reality’


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It’s official: Dubstep is well into its rave phase. Tents once devoted to drum ’n’ bass and jungle are now thronged by glowing mobs oblivious to the origins of the genre spawned a half-decade ago in dingy London nightclubs.

Often untraceable are its dub and two step roots. While the most critically acclaimed of the bass junkies infuse juke, moombahton, deep house, and spaceship R&B into their grooves, most American dance festivals are heavily dominated by the pejoratively branded “bro-step.”


Enter Nero, the London duo of Daniel Stephens and Joe Ray, who fall somewhere in between — they wring maximum emotional torque out their tracks without sacrificing danceability. Best known for a remix of the Streets’ “Blinded by the Lights,” Nero gravitate to over-the-top ideas. From sci-fi themed titles (“2088”), to a vaguely post-apocalyptic cityscape album cover, “Welcome Reality” is more escapist than verite.

The point isn’t home listening. Barring chemical companion and Stonehenge speakers, the record can’t approximate the full impact of these songs. That can only occur alongside 30,000 similarly altered. Singles “Innocence,” “Me and You” and “Guilt” are as straightforward and monosyllabic as you might imagine. Nominally dubstep, they take their pattern from late ’90s techno — massive build and releases, candy-colored synths and anthemic hooks, with synthesizers set to electrocute.

As effective as it is predictable, “Welcome Reality” will inevitably soundtrack thousands of summer and fall blowouts. Even if they’re just fiddling with the formula, Nero understand how to make things burn.


“Welcome Reality”

(Mercury/MTA Records)

Two and a half stars (Out of four)

--Jeff Weiss