The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, by The Nice
Suggested by Bryan Connolly
When I think of Sixties bands, they generally fall into three camps.
The first is your Basic Pop Combo. You’ve got your Beach Boys, your Hollies, your Monkees. Pleasant, harmonious song-nuggets for you to dip into your brain-sauce and consume.
The second is your Drugged-Out Psychedelia. You’ve got your Doors, your Pink Floyd, your Byrds. Weird and wonderful spaced-out rock gentility. Far out, man!
The third is your Rocking Batsh*t Insanity. You’ve got your Beefhearts, Your Mothers of Invention, your Stooges. Rocking and rolling and weirding us out in grand ineffable style.
There are overlaps, naturally. Floyd hit the intersection of two and three, whilke The Rolling Stones cover one and three depending on the weather. The Beatles? Likely near the eye of the hurricane, slap in the centre of the Venn Diagram.
The Nice are firmly in camps two and three. Rocking, tripping, cacophonous oddity. Does it work?
Before we sally forth, let’s tackle the album name. At first glance, it’s the exact brand of pomposity that makes my skin crawl, but on further examination it’s actually a combination of the band members’ names: Keith EMERson, David O’LIST, Brian DAVison and Lee JACKson. That’s actually quite cute. Somewhere there’s a notepad filled with other failed attempts like Keivid Brialee or Son O’Sonson.
The album starts of brighty. I mean, sure, Flower King of Flies is a little percussion-heavy and jangling, but it’s coherent enough. The title track, my personal favourie, has a blended opening section with exultant vocals before paring it down before an inevitable build to joyful happoiness. And Bonnie K’s more straightforward rocking blues feel demonstrates the band’s versatile energy.
Then we hit Rondo, with is best described as a waste of a tea break. It’s a bass and drumline gallop for eight full minutes which has outstayed its welcome after one. The entire song sounds like the final crescendo from your standard rock song, all racing instruments looking to pull the final trigger, but the sweet relief of an ending never comes. In every sense, it’s musical waterboarding.
And so it continues. War and Peace? A five-minute distorted guitar solo that degenerates into anarchy. It’s like half the band are on the Waltzers and the other half are on the Dodgems, and the fairground is about to close everyone is determined to get the most out of their last fifty pee. Tantalising Maggie is a collective nervous breakdown, and the jangling twang of Dawn, with its heavy-handed whispered vocal, came over as intensely creepy. It sounded like the desperate cajolings of a solitary paedophile reaching though caged school gates as the end-of-playtime bell rings.
The Nice are not particularly nice, and The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack gets 4/10. It started well, but the drive for constant creative reinvention delivered many more misses than hits.