Had a funny relationship with Nuzzle over the years. First thing I bought was the ‘No Más’ 7” which, at the time, I didn’t really know what to do with. It was gloopy, and bleary, and it just sort of milled around. Next was the ‘Follow For Now’ LP, which was far more my speed: noisy, urgent and slapdash in the best sort of way. Then the second and final album, ‘San Lorenzo’s Blues’. That was, I’ll admit a toughie. It was more of that bleariness: a sort of swaying, swooning thing that certainly wasn’t at the more raucous end of emo, but didn’t fully ally itself with the genre’s more indie rockin’ side either. Nothing was entirely straightforward: it had that just-woken-up-and-the-room’s-too-hot feel to it; they made you work to get on with the melodies; there was a sort of nearly-but-not-quite country vibe that even my Neil Young-enjoying brain couldn’t quite adapt to. But I sort of pressed on as you do when both money and music are in short supply. At some point, it just sort of clicked – I think it was the song ‘Unbreakable You’ that did it, thanks to the initial groove and the fact that the elements I dubbed ‘weirder’ were slipped in through the back door. And, of course, once I was in, I couldn’t get out. I think it was the odd plaintive quality that ended up really suckering me: this sort of sad-but-still-somehow-hopeful vibe that sees the silver lining even though it’s pissing down with rain and there’s water coming in through the roof.
All this is to say, I guess, that Nuzzle weren’t really a typical sort of band. Nor a particularly easy one, I don’t think. You don’t see their name bandied about that much, even by people who go in for bands like Everygreen or Lync, with whom I think they share certain sensibilities. That’s a shame, and while I’d like to say that this release might reset the balance… I’m not sure. It’s not that it isn’t great – it is – but because, well, people are just a bit daft, really.
Rather than anything entirely unheard, ‘No Love Like That – Stanford Sessions, 1997’ represents eight cuts in rougher-hewn form than they would that would end up elsewhere. Originally recorded for a short-lived Sub Pop subsidiary that put out a handful of Murder City Devils releases, the material was filed, boxed and became, to drop a fairly deep in-joke, the junk of myth.
So what do we get, now that they’ve been uncovered and remastered? The sleepy, plush production the songs would later exhibit has been stripped back, and there’s more sharpness to them, less considered restraint. The arrangements are sparer, so you can see where the raw edges are, and how they rub up against or cling stickily to each other. ‘Unbreakable You’ feels rangier and punchier, while the version of ‘No Más’ here allows you to better latch onto the tricksy percussion and lobs in some enjoyably spooky backing ooooooos that were omitted from the ‘San Lorenzo’s Blues’ iteration.
There is nothing particularly revelatory or untoward about these unearthed cuts. They are not embryonic, or manifestly altered. The joins are still smooth, and each song stands whole and complete. True, there are more gaps and more light gets through, but there are no stratospheric leaps in terms of dynamic or arrangement. But, nevertheless, there’s a crackling aliveness to this material that means it all feels urgent and, above all, necessary. I’ve found myself listening to it side by side with ‘San Lorenzo’s Blues’, picking through the pieces and both rediscovering what I loved about that album and enjoying these earlier demos in their own right. I have a feeling that this might be a relatively niche pursuit, but I do hope it’s enough of one for Solid Brass to make good on the labour and investment they’ve lovingly put into this release. And, if you’ve gotten to the end of this review and find yourself intrigued by the notion of a hazy, atypical, country-flecked emo band of the latter 90s having their bones dug up and put on public display then please, by all means, dig right in, because there’s a very good chance you’ll find something to fall in love with.