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- Robespierre's Velvet Basement by Jacobites
8/10 Clinton Staff review, 22 January 2014
A slew of Nikki Sudden related re-issues this week. I’ve picked this, his second album with Dave Kushworth as Jacobites for review for no other reason than it was first on the pile and that he and the other guy on the cover have impressively messy hair.
Having made their mark in the excellent Swell Maps, the brothers went on to release a pile of influential records in the 80’s which were born out of punk’s loose DIY approach but musically harked back to the late 60’s and early 70’s for inspiration. The record really is a beautifully messy collision of varying styles and era’s of music, enthusiastically strummed with nods to T-Rex, Stones and Big Star. Although there are a few Stones-like r&b blasts which add not all that much to the history of rock, there are several examples of tracks which really mark a crossroads in music where the melodic and evocative 60’s meets post punk vigour head on.
Sudden has an effective but off-kilter voice not all that far away from latter day Mark E Smith when he’s attempting to ‘sing’. Opener ‘Big Store’ begins with lonesome harmonica leading to a Wire(y) guitar line and a tumbling melody which is the exact mid-point between The Stooges and The Fall. Similarly, the strummy, tuneful ‘Snow White’ sounds like the place where early 70’s David Bowie and early ‘80’s R.E.M finally collide. ‘Silken Sheets’ is just a great strumalong with chiming guitars and a big harmony filled chorus whilst ‘Ambulance Station’ shows up the regular Bob Dylan influence that pervades the record yet its shambolic, strummy delivery puts me in mind of the C86 strummers who surely took influence from this type of stuff. The B side features a host of ballads many which try to perfect the style of ragged yet tearful song exemplified by The Heartbreakers ‘You Can’t Put Your Arm Around a Memory’.
The early to mid 80’s was a funny time for 60’s influenced guitar music. Other than R.E.M and the Paisley Underground groups across the pond, there was very little above eye level happening in the UK yet there was a slew of underground types strumming away on their own terms many of which seem to be finally re-discovered. Therefore Nikki Sudden should be happily filed alongside recent re-issues from Cleaners From Venus, Nick Nicely, The Servants et al.
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