Nic Armstrong & The Theives
The Greatest White Liar
I wonder if ever millennial odometer flip is like this, where we as a culture feel compelled to latch onto our past instead of bravely leaping into the clean chromed-over future that we slobbered over in science fiction just a few moons ago. And then, to just confuse things even more, the cultural critics are quick to make 'retro' a four letter word the minute that the precious anachronism they rely upon is made an institution once again. Its living out of time: not having a now. Maybe there is a now, and its just too fucking scary to embrace, the child of the times we have suckled has become a holy terror.
And once I get over myself (which does actually happen once in a while) and quit pretending I need something new and different all the damn time like some kind of attention deficient art burning stove, I come to realize there is plenty of magnificent new things being hatched after warming in that nest of the classics. Nic Armstrong is a newcomer in this new-old breed of rockers and deserves your attention. "Beatlesque" is not a term I like to thorw around (not out of any reverence for the Grand Old Band, but "Beatlesque" things usally end up sounding more like ELO than anything offa Abbey Road) but Nic is one of the few artists I've heard that really do capture the energy and spirit of those mop headed invaders when they were young and powerful and sexy and making teenagers and grannies pass out on the chain link fence at the airport. It has that hormonal urgency that is missing from so much music. His chops and understanding of what makes for a good rock-n-roll song are without question, these songs are perfectly executed, sounding like you have known them for years. The beauty of this record is that I don't smell a bit of irony on it like that flavoring the many excellent punk art rock projects pushed forth by many tattooed hipster labels in the ads of Juxtapos. Every George Harrison guitar quote, every Kinks-like wistful gasp, every mod harmonica burst is not out of any postmodern concern, but because it makes the song freakin' happen.
It opens with a scream, like all teenage adventures should, on "I Can't Stand It" then giving way to fuzz stomp of "Broken Mouth Blues." The hippy hippy shake of "On a Promise" is guaranteed to get the ladies on the floor at the next house party, followed with the best slow-dance I've heard in eons "I'll Come To You." Each jangle of the tambourine will pull you two star-crossed lovers ever closer. And once your connection is firmly established, the stone fox strut of "Natural Flair" will help to seal the deal. This remarkably balanced collection of great songs is maintained with the sweetly spooky "You Made it True" and the closing twist salvo of "I Want To Be your Driver"
Straight-up fun records like this and the Black Keys album of late tend to push me over into hyperbole territory, but this record totally lights a fire under me. I want to play it on the loudspeaker at work and watch as the receptionist commence to frug on the desk, and the kooky kids from the marketing department involuntarily begin flipping each other over in a dance party explosion in the cafeteria. Lord only knows what will be inspired to happen in the dark recesses of the mail room. I just hope Nic can keep up this kind of record, since we are sorely in need of it.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com