Skip to main content

The Nectarine No 9 - Saint Jack (Heavenly)

There's a darkness at the heart of Saint Jack, the second album by The Nectarine No 9, Davy Henderson's skewed ensemble take on rock and roll following his adventures with Edinburgh post-punk primitivists Fire Engines and the major label pop entryist gloss of Win. Originally released in 1995 on Alan Horne's briefly reignited Postcard label, Heavenly's twentieth anniversary reissue goes some way to unearthing the missing link between those early deconstructions and Henderson's current guise leading the equally conceptualist Sexual Objects, who this year auctioned the sole copy of their second album, Marshmallow, on eBay for a cool £4,213.

Having 'regrouped' once already last year and with dates pending in London and Glasgow to play Saint Jack in full, The Nectarine No 9 might just have found their time.

With the band named after a Japanese love hotel, the title of this follow up to their loose-knit debut, A Sea And Three Stars (or C***, if you will), was a triple-edged sword that referenced Peter Bogdanovich's 1979 Singapore-set movie of the same name, the Beat Generation's hopped-up golden boy novelist as well as the stuff that comes in bottles out of Tennessee.

With such a pop cultural pedigree in tow, Saint Jack sets sail with the strident call and response of the title track, a guitar-powered voyage into mythological seas that looks to Joseph Conrad as much as Lou Reed's 'Heroin' for lyrical ballast. Such straight ahead scene-setting is initially deceptive, however, for the cut-up collage of guitar sketch motifs, TV and movie samples and spoken word peppered throughout the album's fourteen pieces.

Ben Gazzara's dialogue from Bogdanovich's film is in there, as is twentieth century art critic Clement Greenberg's damning verdict on Jackson Pollock. Poet and fellow traveller Jock Scott, whose own lost opus, My Personal Culloden
, featuring music supplied by Henderson and co, was also recently re-released by Heavenly, also waxes sleazily. The effect of such a multi-media pot-pourri is akin to hearing a bootleg of a Dada-inspired underground cabaret with the Nectarines as house band.

But Saint Jack is still a rock and roll album, the flesh and blood of which comes into play only when Henderson and a five-piece line-up that includes guitarist Simon Smeeton and drummer Ian Holford, who remain the backbone of The Sexual Objects, fully let rip. This happens on 'This Arsehole's Been Burned Too Many Times Before', which, despite the self-lacerating title, is somewhat appositely one of the jauntiest songs on offer. As three guitars veer off in different directions, Henderson channels his inner Todd Rundgren before the song reaches its pounding conclusion accompanied by 'Sister Ray' style organ drowning out what sounds like muffled answerphone messages.

By turns abrasive, uptight, world-weary and strung-out, this a decidedly grown-up collection of velveteen noir. With Henderson seemingly lurking in the shadows throughout, his voice is kept low in the mix and wilfully swamped by other elements. At times it's a murmur, at others a treated drawl that comes in an accent acquired somewhere between a Sunday morning Edinburgh car boot sale and the Chelsea Hotel after-hours.

Beyond such hiding in plain sight, the album peaks with a slow-burning finale that begins with the beat-powered rifferama of 'Firecrackers', before things slow down for 'Un-Loaded For You'. The most insular and personal song on the album, the latter begins with a plucked-out confessional before eventually bursting into a mountainous epic of purging and redemption. 'Clipped Wings & Flower Stings' comes from the same scuzzed-up corner, albeit wrapped up with a prettified but insistent slo-mo jangle that's eventually over-ridden by the organ once more.

Of the nine tracks on the bonus CD of John Peel Session recordings, covers of Captain Beefheart's 'Frownland' and Jackson Browne's 'These Days', a song originally recorded by Nico, make even more explicit where The Nectarine No 9 were coming from. Unadorned by the blow-out on the Saint Jack version of 'Un-Loaded For You', the stripped-down Peel Session take sounds even more naked. It's as raw as it gets on a contrarily triumphal meditation on melancholy, magic and loss, the three graces that drive a collection that lays bare everything a big bad world can throw at you.

The Quietus, December 1st 2015

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …