[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
The experimental pop record. Many feel the need to attempt one, few finish. Of those who complete the task, even fewer are worth the time it takes to listen. I can count those which have merit on one hand, which is fitting because Black Nail Cabaret’s latest album joins this prestigious club, ahem, handily.
I’m now up to five over the last thirty five years.
To have an established act like this who are renowned for their precision and unending tension step out of their comfort zone really makes a lot of others pale by comparison. We don’t need to name any names here but all the ‘songwriting’ ability in the world doesn’t mean anything if you have no imagination at the core. You can run your tunes through all manner of machinery and you can agonize endlessly in the editing suite but if your work is not genuine, if it doesn’t grab the listener by the ear and pull them into the proceedings all the remixing in the world won’t save things.
There are, no doubt, a myriad of versions which could have appeared on ‘Pseudopop’ but Black Nail Cabaret deliberately chose to give us rougher, less pristine material to parse. On all of their other releases Emese’s voice has maintained a cold almost mechanical tone, now and then her humanity would peek through before getting brusquely shown the door. There’s now a warmth to her delivery which simply was not allowed to flourish previously and it’s quite invigorating to take in. It’s not hyperbole to say I can feel her smiling while she soars on “Icarus” or sense the pair of them synched into the groove of “Trigger Happy”.
“Tell me who do you run to, who do you run to, who do you run to c’mon.”
Would anyone else have the guts to release the delightfully airy “90s”? Probably not and my do her words hit home for me throughout it’s 3:10 run. “I just pretend it’s the 90s and I’m 25…” It’s heartening to know I’m not the only one who looks back on that decade with fondness. Whether it’s a slide guitar propelling this one or just some deft filter usage I don’t know but fear not they’re still willing to give up pure majesty via “Technicolor”. You might be able to draw a line to their previous releases on this one but again, the sound choices are very unlike them.
They have taken multiple influences and just run with them, ending up with these ten songs which while thoroughly electronic are possessed by soul you just don’t get much of, if ever. Who but this pair would lead into their new long player with a single entitled “Bete Noire” which is a sleek,sinuous ode to enmity containing a line like “I think I want to kill you, but I believe in peace, bitch”. Oh and about that single, it contains a pair of b-sides that only enhance their repertoire and confirm once again what a unique outfit they are.