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Nightingales - For Fuck’s Sake

  by Adrian Janes

published: 7 / 5 / 2014

Nightingales - For Fuck’s Sake
Label: Big Print Records
Format: CD


Uncompromising but earthy and imaginative vinyl only latest album from Birmingham-based punk/alternative rock act, the Nightingales

From its exasperated title onwards, the Nightingales’ fifth studio album since their 2004 reformation is full of undimmed energy and invention. Singer and lyricist Robert Lloyd has a style at once craftsmanlike and quirky which is matched by the band. It’s the spirit of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, transposed to a seedy twenty-first century Britain. Launching into action with Lloyd’s powerful braying vocal, raw guitar and thrashed drums, ‘Bullet for Gove’ mixes oblique and direct social comment. The obliqueness leaves room to ponder exactly what he is exercised about: “Some things are said in Latin/Some things are said in jest”, but the passion behind the title is quite clear. ‘Diary of a Bag of Nerves’ begins with heavy tom-toms while Lloyd’s voice lurches from a sort of yodel to a grim growl: the depth to which it plunges, and a duel between Alan Apperley’s guitar and guest Katherine Young’s bassoon beneath which the rhythm section just about holds proceedings together, again evoke Beefheart. ‘Toasted on Both’ also has that Magic Band blend of somehow verging on the shambolic which yet rests upon a great mutual understanding between Apperley, Andreas Schmid’s alert bass and Fliss Kitson's Drumboesque rolling round the kit. There is an altogether lighter touch given to ’The Abstract Dad’, with an almost rockabilly feel to the music and a similarly nostalgic air lyrically. In terms of lasting impact, the central songs on the album are ‘His Family Has Been Informed’ and ‘Dumb and Drummer’. The former begins with some typically grounded surrealism: “When Winston Churchill met Geoff Hurst to share a battered cod/ A Marmite kiss, a bubble burst, soaked in the will of God/A never ending honeymoon, a constantly replenished feast/And on Question Time some chinless dick is lying through his teeth/And unprepared and yet forewarned/And his family has been informed.” While Lloyd’s lyrical skill is apparent throughout the album, ‘His Family’ could almost be an update on early Bob Dylan in terms of subject matter (e.g. ‘Masters of War’) and the way in which every verse is designed to be capped with the title. The song seems to be about how those at home, whether politicians or public, take refuge in an unthinking patriotism while ordinary soldiers suffer, a reality masked by the newsreader’s usual bland announcement of a soldier’s death: “We wash the car/And mow the lawn/And his family has been informed”. Lloyd delivers the words in a tuneful rasp, like Bill Callahan channelling Tom Waits, while the music marches onwards like the Proclaimers’ ‘500 Miles’ before Apperley produces an anthemic flourish of guitars to finish. ‘Dumb and Drummer’ is even better. Over a pounding opening worthy of the Rollins Band, Lloyd’s vibrato has something of the power and glory of vintage Roger Chapman. With its scattering of biblical and present-day allusions (“Adam broke his sole commandment/Eve set fire to her guitar”), what could on the face of it be simply an anti-religion diatribe seems also to have secular society in its sights: “Cain slew his only brother/And Cash Converters have his heart”. Once more, Lloyd seems much more interested in stirring up feeling and thought than giving any easy answers, and it’s one of the key qualities that makes this album demand repeated plays. The Glitter band-style drumming and chorus chant of ‘Thick and Thin’ add a strand of pop. But it’s an ambiguous pop, with Lloyd’s voice like Nick Cave at his deepest and darkest, and Apperley’s guitar delivering a sandblasting solo near the end before topping off the song with a Duane Eddy lick. Sprightly guitar and fluid bass also make the first half of ‘Contempt’ catchy, but an abrupt shift into distant echoed drums and sombre vocals more than hints at a gloomier mood. A desperate energy then moves ‘Same Old’; Lloyd’s voice roars like a wounded lion as Kitson batters out a broken rhythm and Adderley picks out a repetitive theme, acting as the fulcrum around which the others revolve. Concluding track ‘Good Morning Midnight’ isn’t as successful as some of the other songs in what seems to be a typical technique of welding together elements of several styles into one composition. From a country-style introduction it moves through lo-fi pop and what seems to be a Western theme before ending on a passage that sounds like something from a cheesy 50s ballad. Perhaps it’s intended to be humorous, but it’s certainly something of a let-down after much of what has preceded it. ‘For Fuck’s Sake’ is a challenging, at times cussed record, to which all concerned make great contributions. But over 30 years into his career, in a time of so much empty music and rhetoric, it’s especially heartening to hear Robert Lloyd’s expression of honest feeling, fed through an earthy wit.

Track Listing:-
1 Bullet For Gove
2 Diary Of A Bag Of Nerves
3 The Gruesome Threesome
4 Toasted On Both
5 The Abstract Dad
6 The Abstract Dad
7 Good Morning And Goodbye
8 His Family Has Been Informed
9 Dumb And Drummer
10 Thick And Thin
11 Contempt
12 Same Old
13 Good Morning Midnight

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Interview (2012)
Nightingales - Interview
John Clarkson speaks to Robert Lloyd of Birmingham-based punk/alternative band The Nightingales about their recently released latest album 'No Love Lost'


Photoscapes (2014)
Nightingales - Photoscapes
Bill Gray takes photographs of Birmingham-based punk/alternative band the Nightingales at a show in Glasgow

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