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Scout Niblett - Kidnapped By Neptune

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Artist: Scout Niblett

Album: Kidnapped By Neptune

Label: Too Pure

Review date: Jul. 5, 2005

Kidnapped By Neptune is British songstress Scout Niblett’s first domestic release on Beggars Group, and her third full-length album in four years. 2003’s I Am mixed melancholic Cat Power’d guitar sleepers with propulsive drums-and-vocals rockers that were equally alienating and adventurous. The record caught the attention of indie-rock fans and musicians alike, notably Devendra Banhart, who brought Niblett on tour and included her track “Wet Road” (off her debut Sweet Heart Fever) on his Golden Apples of the Sun compilation. Anyone expecting a return to Niblett’s singer/songwriter roots in the wake of Banhart and co.’s success may find Kidnapped By Neptune a shock, perhaps even a disappointment. Stylistically, the Steve Albini production doesn’t venture far from I Am’s guitar song/drum song dynamic, but better juxtaposes the quiet and the loud, embracing a bipolarism that repeatedly interrupts, jars and startles the listener to attention. It’s easily Niblett’s most challenging album to date, and also her most accomplished.

Niblett’s professed love for Nirvana is readily apparent on Kidnapped..., which is full of the ’90s quiet/loud dynamic. Opener “Hot to Death” begins with just Niblett and her guitar, before building to grungy rock rife aided by guitarist Chris Saligoe and Delta 72 drummer Jason Kourkounis. The resident highlight, “Lullaby for Scout in Ten Years,” soars with an intensity that would fit snugly on a Hole album. It can sound a tad nostalgic, if not dated, at times, but flourishes of piano (“This City”) and synths keep Kidnapped from sounding like a retro project.

On the contrary, the big, distorted guitars sound almost refreshingly playful in their spontaneity and rawness, and bring out a strength in Niblett’s singing that surpass the loudest parts of I Am. For all its instrumentation, Kidnapped... ultimately is a showcase for Niblett’s voice, which may be unparallel in the world of indie-rock today for its ability to carry harmonies (often over nothing but drums) while maintaining an unsettling ferocity.

Niblett’s lyrics remain as idiosyncratic as ever, singing about love in equal parts sexual and innocent. On “Fuck Treasure Island,” a song that’s title reflects Niblett’s recent relocation from her native England to the Bay Area, she sings, “I was so excited / just to ride in your car… / I was alive that day,”. Where on I Am’s “It’s All for You,” Niblett sang in the persona of a cheerleader, this time on “Pom Poms” she reflects, “Does anyone know a cute girl with some Pom Poms? / Everyone needs someone to call out there name in a little song,” coyly blurring the little girl/sexpot line.

Kidnapped is not without its missteps. With its fluctuating musical moods and volumes – 15 tracks and nearly 60 minutes – it can feel like an endurance test at times. Quieter, more introspective tracks like “Relax” and “Wolvie” are nearly lost to the brashness that surrounds them, while the instrumental “Handsome,” although one of the more triumphant rockers on the album, suffers from the lack of vocals, and could have easily been left off. By the time closer “Where Are You?” rolls around, even Niblett herself sounds exhausted, singing “I’m so looking forward to coming home / to my quiet home... until then I’ll make my fucking noise.” Kidnapped is some adventuresome noise, replete with ragged glory and more than a few hints at greatness.

By Jon Pitt

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