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The Veils - Nux Vomica

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Artist: The Veils

Album: Nux Vomica

Label: Rough Trade / World's Fair

Review date: Jan. 22, 2007

The Veils’ Finn Andrews is the kind of guy who sings the word “forget” like he’s saying “fuck it.” He's also got enough audacity to sing, “Now here I am, I’m pushin’ 24” without a hint of irony. Me, I’m pushin’ 30 and can't help but roll my eyes and shake my head at that sort of statement, with all its gilded finality, like how on Earth did we ever get this far. You might be pushin’ 35, or 47, or 62, and at that point, for all I know, you opt for “fuck it,” too. At each stage of our adulthood, we as humans tend to make pronouncements about the way things are, ones that at some later point in life we may live to regret. I have a feeling that Andrews, born in 1983, is going to look back at Nux Vomica, the second album he’s made using the Veils namesake, and cringe for singing things like “that life of yours sickens me to my maternal core” or “love, hide me away / deep in that turning canopy of snow.” But if there’s an age to do it, if you have the words to loft some pink-taffeta-cum-crucially-heavy-senior-seminar statements out, your early-20s make for a better time than any, when what's written down can eternally drip with the sentiments those phrases once projected, when you meant them.

I turned around one day and learned that those 25 and under were starting to take over, even if they didn’t know how. Their pods just hatched or something while I went to my day job. Their nightlives replaced mine. James Murphy said it five years ago in “Losing My Edge” and I thought, great, now it’s happening to me.

Then I saw members of that generation making sense of things that kids my age looked up to – Clockcleaner and Pissed Jeans pulling rank on the ugly, violent cesspool of '80s nihilism via punk and noise rock; Times New Viking sliding down the splintered banister of the lo-fi movement; Chicago’s Scalpels and Iowa’s Raccoo-oo-oon rewriting textbooks from the most cosmic of vantage points; Dungen recombining the whole of '60s psychedelia.

Finn Andrews moves comfortably through this world. Moving to London from his childhood home of New Zealand, he got the Veils off the ground at 18; a protracted struggle found his band’s tepid debut, The Runaway Found, delayed to the point where Andrews balked at touring on years-old material, and threw the band that made it out as well. Following a solo tour, he returned home to the island, and there he channeled Nux Vomica. The album refers to a very intense, sensitive, brooding personality type, and also the Latin name for strychnine, which Andrews spits all over these 10 songs of high drama and deceit, of watching one’s empire crumble, and envisioning nature as the arms that cradle our spirits. No band has ever done the early Bad Seeds records any greater justice; Andrews is probably more Nick Cave than Cave himself at this point, who was in his mid-20s when the Birthday Party ended and the next phase of his career – that of the singer-songwriter – began.

Then again, Henry Rollins was about 23 years old when he recorded his side of Black Flag’s Family Man. Check out the cover shot of Nux Vomica – Andrews stares, vacantly, as tendrils of the smoke from the cigarette he dangles from his prone right hand snake out of his mouth. You can’t tell where his black hair stops and his black hat starts. Put this guy in a café somewhere, dogeared copy of Nausea and a black cup of coffee in front of him, and he is everything you resent in humanity, from the top down. Would you put on his record? It took some convincing, but a friend suggested I track down a copy (at time of this review, it remains a pricey British import), and he’s the type who wouldn’t listen to a band unless he felt the band was somehow thinking of him, was telling his stories when they wrote these songs. As the record is the follow-up to a stalled debut, this wasn’t as easy as I would have wanted.

He’s laying it out for you if you want it, though in a highly captivating fashion that brushes off 2006’s boilerplate releases and lack of innovation with a table-clearing, licentious gesture. Andrews stands up to Cave’s level, though his teeth are clenched from tippy-toe moves to meet the man eye to eye. Under duress, he squeezes his voice down into a craggy vulture howl, and the strychnine turns into a corrosive. A full band augments him here, strings and female backing vocals and traditional rock lore, but then there’s the piano, soldiering on under most of the songs: it starts the record with a single, held note and the sound of a Victrola needle deep in the dead wax; it rains down on “A Birthday Present,” as if it’s gearing up for Mario Lanza to sing over; it brings sunlight onto the otherwise tense and sarcastic sneer of “Calliope!”; it bops with starched, grandfathered correctitude on “Advice for Young Mothers to Be.” These guys like formalism, they like the classics, and it shows in the flawless attitude and execution of each track. Knowing that music of this stripe is only pretentious if it doesn’t work, it’s a near miracle that the entire album holds up, front to back, even those ballads in the second half that might have ruined lesser works. While a band like the Walkmen are covering similar territory with a unified front of three-piece suits and dusty photographs, they’re more concerned with making things different, hashing out a bastard path for themselves in which many others might not walk. Andrews is too young to worry about that, though. He’s at that age where, if you have enough juice, you can make just about anything you want all yours. He moved half a world away just to start over. And he carries Nux Vomica across as if that half of the world could simply vanish, for nothing would change his mood.

I feel like I’ve listened through Nux Vomica, down to its veneers. I’ve given hours of my life to this record, and will give it untold hours more. Likely, you will as well. Fuck it, forget.

Note: Rough Trade America will release Nux Vomica in April.

By Doug Mosurock

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Find out more about Rough Trade / World's Fair

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