Tancred - Nightstand

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-06-01
Tancred - Nightstand
Tancred - Nightstand

This one begins with the dreamy folk tune, “Song One.” It’s filled with Vashti Bunyan mystical yearning. But then a funny thing happens on the way to the next acid folk song. Drums kick the grooves into power pop gear, and the vocals of Tancred (the nom de plume of Jess Abbott, formerly from the band Now, Now) are suddenly expansive, urgent, and explosive, as is the chorus of “Queen of New York.”

In a way, this music reminds me of the (great) Amy Rigby, who always manages to create catchy pop sounds with a folky touch and a rock ‘n’ roll punch.

The next song, “Apple Tree Girl,” simply ups the power pop ante with a melody that oscillates between excitement and tender concern. And a violin haunts the quiet spaces in the tune. 

The template continues. “Hot Star” is more urgent, catchy, with an echo that is great enough to touch the sound of Nick Lowe (who almost made me love The Bay City Rollers), The Records (who sang about Girls That Don’t Exist), and even the sometime sweetness of Kasey Chambers. This is wonderful pop music. I’m always a sucker for a great chorus.

Then another funny thing happens on the way to the next bit of power pop. “Clippings” suddenly decides to take its good-natured time. Its big instrumental backing is almost Beatle-esque in a ‘Strawberry Fields Forever” sort of way. There’s a psych vibe that creeps back into the proceedings. The same is true for “Something Else.” It’s still pop, but it’s a deeper pop sound, with a wonderful guitar bit at the end.

Then “Underwear” becomes heavy. And a subterranean violin backs a melody that pushes, as Howard Devoto’s great band Magazine suggested, “From Under the Floorboards.” This is stalactite stuff, that “throws a punch” and is a far cry from the dreamy folk or the power pop of earlier tunes. A weird piano bit frames the words, “I’ll feed the hand that bites me.” This is dark stuff. This is dark ironic stuff. And then a really big guitar punctuates the song with a huge exclamation point.

You know, there’s a colorful depth to this record. Ralph McTell (of “Streets of London” and national treasure fame) once said, “Paint your soul. Never mind the legs and arms.” This album does that.

And that’s the important point: This is truly an album with long-playing grooves. There are peaks and valleys, slow vibrations, long thoughts, quick energy, and deep drama. And it’s a breath of fresh air in a world where music is everywhere, but it’s just a single song here and there as background to the more important stuff in life. At this year’s Record Store Day, I was really surprised by the vinyl consumption of so many young people. Of course, vinyl records aren’t portable. So, these people were prepared to touch the stylus to the plastic, relax, and give actual quiet time and personal space to the music.

This album, indeed, with its spectrum of sound, is worthy of that attention.

Then, “Just You” is a relief as it returns to a strummed guitar and a vocal wrapped in a lovely floatation device. And “Strawberry Selfish” continues with this buoyancy that swims in the dreamy psychological waters of the album’s opening song.

My friend, Kilda Defnut, often says that acid folk can not be created or destroyed. Well, the same can be said of power pop. It skipped a generation or two on this record, but it returns in all its power pop glory with “Reviews.” The darker depths of the album’s girth are almost forgotten—that is, until the final song, “Rowing,” that is simply stark, rimmed with dark mascara guitars, and really beautiful.

I’m an old guy. I bought vinyl the first time around. So, I’ve never understood the new tattoo culture. In my day, a tattoo was a bad dream from a navy shore leave at best, and if not a bad dream, a dire hope that at least somebody was sober enough and able to spell my mother’s name right. But I asked a favorite student of mine, several years after graduation about the tattoos on her arms. Darien said, as she poured me a beer in my local bar, that her tattoos were “something permanent in a world that couldn’t promise that anything would last forever.” And I understood that. Yeah, records by all the bands I loved way back in my teens were something permanent in a world that also couldn’t promise that anything would last forever.

And they remain so today.

Tattooed Darien, as she poured me that beer, also told me that she wants to work with autistic kids.

And this has everything to do with a great power pop record like Nightstand with folky touches and a rock ‘n’ roll punch, which paints the soul, and may well, at least for a few listeners, outlast all the convoluted revolutions of a lifetime.

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