ARMENIA: Mubla - Nemra
Taking inspiration from the indie rockers of the past, Nemra manage to place Yerevan on the world map of rock
Hailing from sunny Armenia, rock band Nemra, clearly like to have fun with words. The title of their debut album is Mubla, which is album backwards, and their very own band name is a sly reference to their home land, as it reads Armen also when written backwards. The band have stated in an interview that this is due to the fact that they enjoy looking at the world from multiple perspectives “to see a wider picture”. This could perhaps be linked to the way in which the two brothers who form the core of the band named Van and Vaspur Yeghiazaryan first discovered rock music. The pair initially started out in the music world by learning the violin as children, constrained to the world of classical music. However, in their late teens, their eyes were opened and they had become obsessed with rock music. When a neighbour of theirs wanted to get rid of an old guitar, they leapt at the chance to give it a new home. The rest, as they say, is history. They eventually united with keyboardist Marianna Karakeyan and drummer Marek Zaborski to form the current line up of the band from 2015 onwards. Sung in English, Mubla is a fun rock record that demonstrates the band members’ obvious love for the genre.
“Where Nemra do excel is in making eminently listenable and fun rock music in both energetic and low-key styles that complement each other.”
From the very opening track, you have a good sense where Mubla is going. All I Need is an energetic, upbeat rock song that is an instant crowd-pleaser, with an electric guitar sound that is akin to that of an 80s rock hit, while Dream is more like indie rock; it is gentler and softer, yet it too has an energy and catchiness to it. The album is also very earnest, perhaps to its detriment. A song like Sad Reality, though obviously heartfelt and sincere, comes across as almost childish in its simplicity. Train of Despair is another one in that vein, with a mournful piano opening, and lyrics that are perhaps trying too hard to convey emotion. That said, on a musical level, I like both of the songs very much, and where Nemra do excel is in making eminently listenable and fun rock music in both energetic and low-key styles that complement each other. That said, my favourite song on the album is also very earnest, which makes it rather endearing. Pretty World harnesses the anarchic indie rock energy of a band like the Libertines and coats it around a message similar to that of Louis Armstrong’s classic What a Wonderful World, in which Van Yeghiazaryan sings about, well, how wonderful the world is, and it’s a very charming tune. You get the sense that the band genuinely believe what they sing.
Mubla is a confident and assured debut that will likely entertain most rock fans out there. It does not reinvent the wheel (nor furnish it with magnificent new hubcaps) but it gets the job done handsomely. As far as debut albums go, Mubla establishes Nemra as a talented band that could go on to greater things in the future, and even the lack of lyrical sophistication I can’t hold against them too much, with the band only being in their early 20s when Mubla was released and what with English not being their mother tongue. Considering that Armenia is a country whose most famous musical exports are the much-missed serene duduk master Djivan Gasparyan and the late, great Charles Aznavour, one can conclude that Armenia is not famous for rock music in the slightest, and you would be correct. Nevertheless, with a bit of finesse, grit, and determination, it is possible that with the help of Nemra, rock music could end up alongside copper ore, gold, and rolled tobacco as one of Armenia’s top exports.