Beggars Banquet/creeping Bent
By: Eric Greenwood
Labeling pop music "experimental" is always a gamble. Pop music by definition is, well, popular, but the term has been bastardized to mean any music laden with hooks and/or catchy choruses, as you well know. In some circles experimental pop is known simply as indie pop or, rather, music that"s too rough around the edges to be popular but still catchy on some level. In other circles experimental pop can mean the psychedelic musings of a lunatic like Syd Barrett or the avant-garde freakouts of bands such as The Mothers Of Invention or Captain Beefheart. Scotland"s The Nectarine No. 9 falls somewhere in the midst of all this lazy pigeonholing.
Since 1993 The Nectarine No. 9 has released four albums, three of which were on tiny labels (two on Postcard, one on Creeping Bent) and been heralded by the British press as nothing short of pure genius. Take that for what you will. The band"s fourth album is its major label debut. How this band convinced a major label to distribute such anti-commercial music confounds me. Add to that the fact that the band never tours, and I"m doubly puzzled. Well, it has toured once in its eight-year existence (with Edwyn Collins of all people), but that"s hardly enough to spread the word. Commercial radio certainly wouldn"t touch this with a stick.
The Nectarine No. 9 builds its music around ideas instead of traditional song formulas. These ideas stem from disparate but "important" influences, all of which can be lumped into the "experimental" category. The opener, "Pong Fat 6", is an unruly mess. Squawking, detuned guitars splay above a fuzzed-out bass line and primitive drums. It sounds like an outtake from some anonymous 1960"s garage band. It"s by far the worst song on the album, so, naturally, The Nectarine No. 9 chooses it as the first song on its major label debut. "Susan Identifier" is a whole different story. Singer Davey Henderson croons over this slow burner, but your typical ballad this is not. Space-age effects cover the guitars, which bleat wildly in the background. Piano and drums shuffle in a cliched bar blues setting. Worlds collide. Then the song takes a sharp right turn into straight-laced pop. It"s not randomly thrown together, but it"s not conventional songwriting either.
"Constellations Of A Vanity" is a soulful sing-along, complete with xylophone and ensemble back-up vocals. The lo-fi guitar work recalls mid-period Pavement, but the vocals sound like what might happen if Mark E. Smith did a lot of ecstasy. Wacked-out, drugged-out, loopy melodies abound. The creepy soul-drenched "Foundthings" sounds dirty and exciting like the production on John Lennon"s Abbey Road contributions. If you"re not freaked out when Henderson whispers "show me your favorite holes/I can dig in", then you might be more than a little weird. I am curious to know what drugs caused him to utter: "found things in your car/found things on a star/found things in the shower/found things on a flower." The sneaky bass and drums hold the song together, but everything else is chaos. Guitars squall, keyboards blare. It does make for some intriguing sounds, however.
The happy-go-lucky racket of "It"s Raining For Some Cloudy Reasons" is a bit of a masturbatory indulgence. Beneath all the clutter is some sort of hippie commune chorus of "there is a silver moon." Light feedback, horns, and plonking percussion sound drunkenly thrown together. It"s a song Soul Junk most likely would have thrown away in 1995, if that better puts it in perspective. The sinister gallop "Look At My Sleeves They Fall Down" is a Mercury Rev-style accident. It"s audio exploratory surgery but without any goal, as the band slices open an idea and digs around in it for five minutes or so. If it finds something worth repeating, it does ad nauseum. The same can be said of Received Transgressed & Transmitted as a whole. It"s not a fun album, but oftentimes difficult music begets long-term rewards. I’ve yet to discover enough to recommend this wholeheartedly, but I"ll let you know if anything changes.