Holly and the Nice Lions - Black Moon

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-08-03
Holly and the Nice Lions - Black Moon
Holly and the Nice Lions - Black Moon

This is tough nut local band rock ‘n’ roll. There’s a lot of raw power here. Not only that, but Eddie from Rocky Horror would really like this album. It rocks.

Full disclosure: Holly (and her Nice Lions) are friends from my local Green Bay, Wisconsin scene. And I know there are people who will possibly use my confession of personal bias (which is akin to a few of those FBI emails) to further a deep state conspiracy theory against the government but, all right, let the truth be known: there’s nothing clandestine here. There are no secret meetings or hidden agendas.  I’m just a fan and a friend, and despite all of that, I really like this record.

The blueprint is a loud sonic rumble, ala Iggy and the Stooges, of Steven Spoerl’s bass and Travis Pashek’s drums. Over the loud engine room, Holly Trasti’s guitar leads have (almost) psych colors, while her vocals skid and slide all over the melodic place, and occasionally lose themselves in their own yelps and yawps. Iggy did the same thing.

“Dead Sounds” kicks the album into feedback orbit. The vocals are mixed low into an organic in-concert level. They take their own listening time to emerge. As stated, this is a rumble of rock music. The guitar bounces around a bit. Then “Fauve at Best” just explodes with more fury. Again, there is a psych pigment to the paint. And the vocals continue to echo a distant Pretenders’ sound, without the need for a hit single, yet possessing a greater love for underdog brother Dave from the Kinks’ Davies family.  

This album shakes a bit. But, to almost quote Jerry Lee, there’s a whole lot of melodic blistering going on. Case in point: “Noble Trouble” and “Skull Splitter” rock with tough chords and sweet venom vocals, as the piano (again, low in the mix) paints the landscape of the song. Now, “Skull Splitter” may well be the quintessential rock ‘n’ roll moment on the record. The song rips a guitar intro that echoes the great bands like May Blitz, (my beloved) Stray, Eleventh Day Dream Day, and (my also beloved) Budgie, all of whom fuse a molten bridge between the land of psych and hard rock. The chorus has catchy rock ‘n’ roll guts, and then the guitar splits the sonic difference between my stereo speakers.

Betwixt these songs is a guitar and piano spacy instrumental, “Phantom Hex.” It’s a brief and eerie respite.

And “Your Boyfriend’s Dead” is a rocket thrust away from that quiet interlude. The song is quite immediate (and certain to be someone’s favorite tune) but it, perhaps, reverts to a comfortable stereotype of 1978 punk rebellion, rather than taking The Adverts’ “one chord wonder” ethic and running wild and free with power of punk. I much prefer “Undone” (not a cover of The Guess Who’s jazzy pop song). This one rocks; there’s heavenly psych guitar; there’s tingling feedback; and then Holly lets loose with an improv vocal that whoops and whips musical notes from every good boy who ever deserved favor.

Or so they say.

By the way, there’s a wonderful American singer-songwriter, Mark Germino, who wrote a song called “Rex Rob Lowinstein” about a disc jockey who simply plays the music he loves. Of course, the guy gets squeezed by corporate execs who only care about radio points and market shares. Anyway, Rex Bob will play “U2 and Little Feet/And even play the band from the college down the street.”

Well, Holly and the Nice Lions aren’t U2 or Little Feet, but they are “the band from the college down the street” that still, even after all these years, just wants to dance up the crowd a little bit.

Rock ‘n’ roll is always just down the street.

And it always wants to dance up the crowd a little bit.

And that’s why “Mind Crime Spree” rocks like Pink Flag’s Wire, an album that gave an escape hatch to punk.

“Depression in French” is sort of jangly with a heavy poker hand, and really, is the single this album hatched without a fig’s concern about the price of eggs.

The final song, “Electric Dreamers” plays homage to rock ‘n’ roll and doing the stroll with big poodle skirts and driving epic guitars. The song makes me want to order a cheeseburger and then listen to The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy.”

And that’s a uniquely American thing to do.

This is a band that rocks a pretty good local club date. It’s noisy with feedback sonics and punk pulse: It touches a live wire, a live wire that ignites a spark that plays its heart out every night to any audience that wants to share that Gimme Danger soul. So, sure, I’m and a friend with a certain bias, and I know this album rocks without any deep state secrets; but I also know, ultimately, that this is still a pretty good and very local rock ‘n’ roll record.

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