As one listens to The Nude Party‘s self-titled album, it’s instantly easy to pick out some sounds and ideas which may have inspired the music, but not so easy to figure out how all the pieces might have aligned to produce this result. For example, the haunting keyboards which color the songs on The Nude Party sound as though they might have been inspired by Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet [a Canadian instrumental indie rock band from the Eighties who’s greatest claim to fame was supplying the theme song for Kids In The Hall], but that feels unlikely. In the same breath, the boogie woogie rhythms splattered all over the album feel directly descended of either The Rolling Stones or The Heartbreakers (or both), but that feels unlikely too – somehow. Finally, there are elements which feel like The Velvet Underground (the rhythm and melody in “Chevrolet Man” feel descended of “Waiting For The Man”), but are cut with pedal steel and other touchings which make it a little more “country” than “city.” It’s the most unusual and unique blend this writer has heard in a while, and makes one feel compelled to ask, “Where did this band come from?”
The question of both the band’s and the music’s origin never quite gets answered at any point between the sides of The Nude Party but, while some critics might call that frustrating, others (like this critic) will revel in the challenge that the album represents. The A-side opens with “Water On Mars” which features some ghostly, vintage keyboards and Sixties-issued pop songwriting chops which call those aforementioned comparisons to Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet to mind as well as a multitude of bands like The Monkees to The Beatles to the 13th Floor Elevators; pieces of each can be found like a gold watch at a garage sale here, and listeners who recognize that value will run to fall under the band’s spell.
After “Water On Mars” sets that sort of dimly lit, poppy tone, “Feels Alright” immediately shifts gears into a more “Rolling Stones” direction – provided that the Stones were built like post-modern superstars. Here, the band lifts every lick out of Keith Richards’ repertoire and re-purposes them to hold up Patton Magee’s designer impostor, Mick Jagger lyrics (check out lines like “I sure hope he don’t forget about me/ But still I don’t mind/ Taking my sweet time dying/ Cause Earth ain’t such a bad place to be”) for about four minutes before just two-stepping out the back door and right into a boozier blues shuffle called “Chevrolet Man.” Now, there’s no question that “Chevrolet Man” is just intended to further express the Stones-y swagger put for by “Feels Alright,” but making the brew a little stronger and more potent just makes the effect that much more comical. It’s impossible not to just laugh at lines like, “I got some free advice just the other day from an old relative of mine/ He said, “You know I dig what you do, but I think you’re wasting your time.
“Driving around and getting drunk with your friends in a van sounds like a lot of fun/ But you’ve gotta have a Plan B because it ain’t gonna last long past twenty-one.”
Of course, those lines above have to be intended to sound stump-dumb and laughable (if they’re not, this band has much bigger problems), but the genius of this song is that it perfectly exemplifies the “dumb, cheap thrills” which used to crop in songs in the Sixties (think “Cover of Rolling Stone,” for example), but is also infused with a sense of post-punk irony which makes it pretty biting too. That’s a new and inventive type of intelligence, and it’s pretty entertaining. Even better, it informs even more songs like “Paper Trail (Money)” and “Records,” and ensures that listeners will be locked in to follow the band through the second side of the album. That brand of intelligence is, very simply the greatest hook in the world.
Now, while “Records” does have a hook set into it which could sustain a listener’s interest all the way through the B-side of The Nude Party after closing the album’s A-side as it does, that doesn’t mean the B-side doesn’t test that interest a bit as well. The vocals on “Gringo One” and their piercing, incredibly nasal tone will have listeners trying to actively resist the urge to lift the needle and skip ahead, and the faux-West vibes of “Wild Coyote” are just painful. Happily though, the dreamy, “Let’s get stoned” moves of “Astral Man” and the rattling instrumental drama of the side-ending “Charlie’s Sheep” save the side from mediocrity when compared to its counterpart well enough.
Now, I know what you’re thinking reader. You’re thinking, “with one side weak enough to be near-completely forgettable in all the worst ways, is The Nude Party really worth finding on vinyl, instead of just headhunting the best songs on iTunes?” That question is valid, but yes – finding this album on vinyl is absolutely worth the effort. The A-side is an incomparable winner and there is enough on the B- to at least keep listeners from wondering why The Nude Party didn’t just edit themselves and release an EP. But the band is young; the great songs here are more than good enough to concede a few moments which express a couple of growing pains, and still leave hopes high that whatever the band does next irons out the creases and arrives even better.
(New West Records)