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The Nightingales
Insult To Industry Mick Middles , March 2nd, 2009 04:24

As band and follower, we go back a long way. That’s myself and The Nightingales. Back, indeed, to their former incarnation as Birmingham punksters, The Prefects. Sullen, deadpan pioneers of the state of embryonic musicality. Caught them at Manchester’s Electric Circus in 1977 and then, numerous times, supporting The Fall. Always loved them and quietly filed them away next to Subway Sect who, likewise, seemed to marry thoughtfulness to their jagged overtones.

They were like secret little bands and later, both would gather encouragement from a certain Mr Peel. However, that very fact also served to seal their fate. As such, The Nightingales, led by the enigmatic Rob Lloyd, now of suitably unfashionable Telford, never gained anything resembling an identifiable following.

Nevertheless, their career would flicker with the kind of brilliance synonymous with a band that occasionally overstretches themselves. Naturally, as their critical acceptance failed to improve their predicament, The Nightingales would bicker and splinter,leaving Lloyd to modestly shrug and suggest – in the pages of the Fall-zine The Pseud Mag, as it happens - “Well, not nearly as many folk like our music as The Kinks or The Kooks or Faust and The Fall…”

Obviously, perhaps. But that doesn’t disguise the fact that The Nightingales have been responsible for some of the most genuinely innovative minority music of the past three decades. What’s more, with the eventual release of new album Insult to Injury, originally scheduled for release a couple of years ago; they have significantly raised their game. In fact, so late in the day as it is, this is undoubtedly their finest moment. Whether this will be reflected in the numbers who attend their gigs, however, is another matter entirely.

A curious thing has happened here. Powered by the twin guitars of Alan Apperley and Matt Wood, Insult to Injury lumbers lovingly from wry folkish areas to the kind of grit-kicking rock one could sense was within their reach back in the bad beer mists of The Electric Circus.

It’s a racket alright and, if rather less than beautiful in places it superbly holds Robert Lloyd’s dry musings aloft. There is a Fallesque angle to the lyrics and, with titles such as ‘Kirklees Ken’, ‘Watch Your Posture’ and ‘Double Whammy Bar’, will do little to dilute that comparison. However, while The Fall have narrowed significantly and rather disappointingly over the years, The Nightingales have started to gather inspiration from a few unlikely and exotic trees. As such, chinks of chinks of gypsy jazz and unwholesome white boy funk and wild folk (a new genre) can be glimpsed at the edges here.

Perhaps a life away from the numbers has kept their natural instinct intact. Their financial loss is certainly our gain.

Only one downer, really. While the montage sleeve is nicely disturbing, it also serves to obscure the inner text. A graphic catastrophie. On the other hand, as The Nightingales mesh of sound occasionally achieves much the same effect with Lloyd’s delivery, it does tend to prepare you for the aural onslaught.