The Nightingales are a band who’ve chosen to slug it out on the tour circuit. Not content to wallow in the same niche as indie 80s revivalists, they’ve returned from the grave with an uncompromising take on modern music that has a classic outsider edge (from a band who’ve supported everyone from Bo Diddley to Nico) and a slathering of Midlands wit.
All is present and correct on the John Robb-produced Mind Over Matter. First there’s the snatches of classic songs that tease your memory, from ‘Pretty Vacant’ and 'Louie Louie' to ‘Blockbuster’, or the Northern Soul rhythms employed in ‘The Only Son’, though it’s hard to believe that the lyrics come from an Elvis poster in the band's lock up. Then there’s ‘The Man that Time Forgot’, an imaginary romcom set to a mighty rhythm in which Robert Lloyd goes head to head with Fliss Kitson, who shows not only is she an incredible drummer but she gives as good as she gets in spewing out the insults. A fabulous track, as is – for other reasons – ‘Gales Doc’, a send up of rock documentaries following a “cult Midlands pop combo”, which is funny, self aware and funny.
As ever, Lloydy’s lyrics are direct and challenging. 'For Goodness Sake' has an evil snaggletoothed riff, an echo of ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’, and a lyric about the shit-sandwiched state of the world. ‘Taffy Come Home’, incorporating that Sweet riff, is a tale of a father’s denial of his Welshness: “he will do whatever he can, to prove that he’s an Englishman”. Meanwhile the dark, brooding ‘But’ is a story of an unhealthy relationship where buy-to-let doesn’t do it for both parties. ‘Ripe Old Age’ is a fingerpopping jazz-punk tribute to Tom Waits and ‘Bit of Rough’ combines glam and 50s croon-pop for an asymmetrical slice of raucous rock’n’roll, while the Beefheartian rhythms of ‘Great British Exports’ could be their best song, musically and lyrically, as Mr Lloyd reels off our great nation’s gifts to the world, including opium wars, football violence, Midsomer Murders and Mumford & Sons.
As ever, the Nightingales don’t fuck about. Lloydy’s on top of his game and his band are up to the challenge of following him, especially Kitson who’s at the heart of almost everything brilliant on this record. If you know the ‘Gales, this is as good as they’ve ever been. If you don’t, here’s your chance to start. As they say in ‘Gales Doc’ (no spoofing this time): “sonically more interesting than most”.