The Nerves were seminal new wave power-popsters, a fertile California trio of drummer Paul Collins, bassist Peter Case and guitarist Jack Lee. All three sang and wrote cool songs, recycling ’60s AM radio fare with the awareness, energy and excitement of the punk underground’s earliest stirrings. Lee turned out concise and catchy heartbreak tunes like “Hanging on the Telephone”; Case leaned to garagey merseybeat rockers like “When You Find Out”; Collins split the difference, penning ambitious melodic rockers like “Working Too Hard.” All three of those songs appeared on the self-released 7-inch EP, and again on the musically impressive retrospective, an affordable and convenient compilation of the Nerves’ hopelessly rare records.
Going their own ways in ’78, Collins formed the Beat (and promptly re-recorded “Working Too Hard”) and Case launched the Plimsouls. That left Lee to bask alone in the glory and riches of Blondie’s (British) hit with his “Hanging on the Telephone.” A few years later, in the hopes of parlaying that big score into a solid songwriting career, Lee released a musical résumé of his best work, including four Nerves-era numbers. (Those early tunes are, for the most part, better than the later efforts showcased here.) Case, Collins, the Rubber City Rebels (who had recorded a great cover of his “Paper Dolls”) and others provide rocking instrumental and vocal support, but Lee never again reached the bigtime. (Although Paul Young did throw Lee a few dollars in publishing money two years later by turning “Come Back and Stay” into an international hit.) But don’t wait up for Vol. 2.