Touched – The Nice Folk (self released)
“Touched” LP is this six-piece Wollongong band’s second full studio album release in eight years. Their last long player (“Devil at My Door”) passed by the Bar without dropping in for a beer, so I’m not up-to-speed with everything that’s occurred along the way.
The thing I know is that there’s a marked difference between “Touched” and the early “Guide To Sedation & Isolation” EP, so let’s focus on that.
There have been line-up changes, inevitable maturation and a fresh approach to recording. Unlike the multi-track digital construction of “Devil”, “Touched” was played mostly live in the studio to analogue tape, with not much more than horns over-dubbed. It sounds much more cohesive with stronger songs and a punchier sound than “Sedation & Isolation.”
“Touched” is a terrific album. And this edition of The Nice Folk sounds like a fully realised-band, reeking in equal parts of swamp-water, bad aftershave and cheap whiskey. It must be said, without losing a zot of the quirkiness that makes them distinctive.
As Edwin Garland noted in a recent live review, The Nice Folk are unlike almost any other Australian band treading the boards right now and a throwback to a time when chances were taken and a fuck was not given. Theirs is the sound of Darlinghurst pubs, where wearing black was less a sartorial choice than a religion.
It’s down to the songs in the end. They’re well written and mostly the brooding, bastard offspring of a full moon union between two parents named Swamp Rock and Blues, with Country having a perv over the graveyard fence while they were doing the deed.
Stylistic pigeonholing to one side, these Nice Folk make a glorious noise. Two guitars scratch and scrape against each other, trumpet roars down the middle of the mix, the rhythms lurch and groove. Dave Mutton’s (sometimes buried) vocals range from an off-colour croon to a howl, with all points in-between covered.
Speaking of songs, there aren’t any better here than “Farther”, Mutton’s cathartic unloading, where fraught trumpet and sharply twisted guitars push lyrics like “I hate my father/And I don’t care if it’s a sin/Because now I’m him” into stark (and dark) relief. There are touches of the “Distemper” era New Christs, Beefheart and (especially) Louis Tillett & the Aspersion Caste.
Excuse another look backwards but “Ice Cream Queen” and its “Heading South” stabbing trumpet also takes things back to the Sydney underground scene circa 1986. Mutton is revelling in his “pornographic dream” and the rest of the band is summoning up a storm. “Deal With The Devil” and the surging “Tall Dark Handsome Stranger” are in the same class.
“Pink and Blue” is a duet between Mutton and trumpeter Special K with percussive trimmings that shows the Folk can take it down a notch, while the moody “Bag of Bones” moodily rocks in a Died Pretty kinda way. The closing “What’s Wrong With Me” crawls like the Birthday Party on their way to a funeral.
Available on LP or as the ubiquitous download.