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The Nightingales - What's Not To Love?

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Artist: The Nightingales

Album: What's Not To Love?

Label: Caroline True

Review date: Apr. 27, 2007

It's been less than a year since the Nightingales released their last album, Out of True, a blistering late-career triumph for this Birmingham-based, John Peel-favored post-punk band. That's an eyeblink for an outfit that issued its last full-length before that the excellent In a Good Old Country Way in 1986. And the fact is that What's Not to Love takes all the elements that powered Out of True the furious drumming, the lyrical vitriol, the chaotic, post-everything guitar work up a notch. There are only six songs here, and the EP clocks in at just over 23 minutes, and yet they are so clamorous, so headlong, so brutal that the record seems like a milestone. The Nightingales, slow from the gate, late to the line, have finally gotten some momentum going.

The band is the same one that played on Out of True, Robert Lloyd snarling and howling and insinuating literately over the top, while ex-Prefects mate Alan Apperly ravages one guitar and skinny not-even-born-in-the-heyday Matt Wood slashes away at another. The key to the whole undertaking, however, may be the rhythm section, Stephen Lowe on the bass and, most particularly, Darren Garrett on drums. The drum sound is fierce and clattery, just as it was on Out of True, hammering out righteous, straight-up marching cadences in "Bang Out of Order" and holding down the vertiginous reel of souk-diving "Wot No Blog." There's even a whole song for Garrett, the mordantly tender "Drummer Man," which mourns a peripatetic rock life between extended fills and all-over-the-kit rolls.

You can tell that the band's been playing together for a while by the way it continually skirts the edge of chaos and continually fails to fall in. Opening cut "Plenty of Spare" emerges out of a rapid-fire maelstrom of a-melodic guitar notes and furious drum skitters, an almost free-jazz ooze that somehow births a song. Or, sort of a song, it's almost a spoken word piece, with Lloyd intoning mysterious and oblique lyrics above the relentless clangor of punk noise. He could be telling a story at a bar, calm and sarcastic, except that his tales twist into surreal arabesques of not-quite-meaning. Here he is describing an ideal woman to be sought through the classifieds: "Would like to meet young world class smile / Maybe vegetarian...though maybe not too keen on mushrooms or bananas / Would like to be a pirate but probably works in a wine store / Must be beautiful beyond belief with boundless confidence...what do you reckon?" (I am particularly fond of the pirate line...and the disdain for mushrooms and bananas.)

All six songs are killers, but Lloyd, true to form, saves his best stuff for late in the game. Even if you've "eh'd" your way through the smack-into-the-walls energy of "Eleven Fingers" and shrugged at the unsentimental melancholy of "Drummer Man", even if the power-chorded, rock-stomping litheness of "Overreactor" fails to gain your approval...there is still "Wot No Blog" to knock you over the head and drag you home. A belly dance gone madly electric, it whirls with Middle Eastern tonalities, until it crashes headlong into guitar-scrubbing, punk-juddering anxiety. Mid-track, it cuts back to just headache-pounding guitar chords and drumming and Lloyd braying like a goat in total abandon. It's too complicated to be punk, too hard and fast to be anything else...maybe it's time for the Nightingales to invent their own genre. After all, it's not like they ever fit very well into the existing ones.

By Jennifer Kelly

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Out of True

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Find out more about Caroline True

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