The Nightingales, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, 6th June 2012

“Their performances will serve to confirm their excellence when we are far enough distanced from the 1980’s to look at the period rationally and other, infinitely better known, bands stand revealed as charlatans” – John Peel on the Nightingales

The Nightingales are a band who achieved a great deal of critical acclaim without ever selling many records. During their original period of existence from 1979 to the late 1980s they recorded more sessions for John Peel than any other band apart from The Fall.

Lead singer, Robert Lloyd, formed a new version of the Nightingales in 2004. The current line-up includes Alan Apperley, who was in Birmingham’s foremost punk band, The Prefects, along with Lloyd in the late 1970s. The five-piece is rounded out by new members Fliss Kitson on drums, Andreas Schmidt on bass and Matt Wood on guitar.

The gig in Sleazy’s is only their second in Scotland since the band reformed.

The first support act, Aggi Doom, announce their presence on stage with a crushing wave of feedback. Lead singer, Claudia Nova, combines Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra hair with a black bodysuit, giant shiny neckpiece and big red boots. The other members of the band carry on the black with shiny neckwear theme.

The group mix twangy guitars with close harmony singing and tribal drumming to create a charmingly ramshackle brand of punky girl pop. The highlight of their set is their debut single, Bring Me The Head, which includes an admirably deranged clarinet solo.

Next up is long-time Nightingales associate, Ted Chippington. Ted is the man who inspired Stewart Lee to take up stand-up comedy. His approach to comedy is to stand motionless in front of the microphone and tell you in a deadpan voice what his neighbour has been up to, or about a leaflet he’s read, or about someone he spoke to once. Half the time there’s no punchline. Even when there is it tends to be about as far away from what any other comedian would regard as a viable comedy punchline as you can imagine.

The audience are largely with him tonight – by the end I was almost in tears. There have been many times in the past when he’s been bottled off stage by unimpressed punters waiting to see a band.

The Nightingales launch straight into their set with no introduction from Robert Lloyd. They carry on in this fashion flicking from song to song with no chit chat in between. The band hit their groove a couple of songs in and start spraying out artfully layered distortion over complex krautrock-inspired rhythms.

The old Nightingales always incorporated complex rhythms into their songs but the new band seem to have taken this a stage further. They recorded their last two albums in legendary krautrock band Faust’s studios and picked up their current bassist while there. The superlative drumming from Fliss Kitson helps them sound krautier than ever before with the instrumental breaks frequently approaching the majesty of Can.

Robert Lloyd crouches down during the instrumental sections, allowing focus to shift entirely to the rest of the band. His vocals are often difficult to pick out in above the sonic assault produced by the guitars. This is a bit of a shame considering the quality of his lyric writing. A welcome exception is his a capella rendition of Only My Opinion from their highly recommended 1983 album, Hysterics.

The emphasis throughout the set is on new material. As a band they’re determined to keep pushing themselves forward rather than simply reproducing old material from the eighties. On the evidence of tonight they’re clearly able to produce exciting music and would be well worth checking out next time they’re in your area.

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About problemofleisure

Freelance journalist and retired councillor.
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