A horrible hack

Nikki Louder


Year Released: 2016
Format: LP
Label: MoonLee - Zars Records
Reviewed by Alex Hannan on Oct 20, 2016
I enjoyed NIKKI LOUDER's last album "Golden men" when I reviewed it here - it teased a graceful, acrobatic power out of the simple guitar, bass, drums lineup. Follow-up "Trout" seems to fast-forward twenty years in the space of two, as if the glowing athlete of the previous album has become an embittered, rope-sinewed team coach. The band haven't forgotten how to play off each other dynamically and they are still rich in ideas, but the thickety riffs on display here are less memorable, stingier with their moments of emotional display. Opener "Don't believe your own bullshit" shows little desire to please, with a blunt sound collage of guitar skronks and plucks.

"Feline blues" shows NIKKI LOUDER in bolshy mood, the instruments jostling and staggering while the vocalist reels off a mildly surreal word salad. "Again, I'm banging my head against the wall, my hands are tied, have nothing to say, now they're gone, cos you look so pretty, you look so sweet, you look pretty fine to me. Cats and dogs come along, have nothing to say, now they're gone. Oh really, is it all I can hear? I'm away, I had to choke." "CV" has a sort of dishevelled, casual elegance, with skittering drums, squirrelly guitar, layers of distortion and reverb. Here particularly you get an insight into their mastery of coordination, a muscle memory for tricksy little rhythms and shifts, which allow them to fingerpaint over the top, smearing and muddying the precision they've worked for. The lyric here is compiled of howled words beginning in "C" and "V": "closed void / chick vacuum / cabal vagary / cabaret vagues."

There is an appealing sketch-like feel to the songwriting, a reluctance to lean on formula. But in the second half there is an over-reliance on density to command attention, too many of the songs ending up cycling furiously round blocky chord sequences in an attempt at climactic weight, when in fact some of the most interesting work actually happens in the more inquisitive earlier stages of "Trout", or the verses of "Shareholder." The darker, chaotic turn to NIKKI LOUDER's sound hasn't integrated consistently with the songwriting here, and contrasts oddly with the lyrics, which show a wilful lack of engagement. Yet there are still musical pearls casually scattered through the album for those who care to look.

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