England - Full Moon 97 - 08/30/04
Last full moon I told I recently had
bought Nick Nicely's compilation LP and later was aware of the coming of a CD compilation with even
more tracks. Well, Mr. Nicely picked up the information, confirmed that his surname is more than
a gimmick and sent a copy of the CD released in July to the Luna Kafé headquarters. This
of course demanded a review.
For those unaware: Nick Nicely recorded three singles in the early 1980s. The third never materialized.
Both were minor underground hits on the European continent. Afterwards Nick and his music disappeared,
though the singles have been hot on the second-hand market ever since. Especially the A-side of the
second "Hilly Fields (1892)" was a fan-tas-tic neo-psychedelic wonder. Nick spent 6 months and most
of his fortunes to record it, the "Good Vibrations" of 1980/81 if ever there was one. It's up there
along with "Ichycoo Park" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" with a cello taken from the English garden
where you can wait for the sun and Eggman to come. It even includes some suitable scratching, unknown
to most at the time. The saying goes "Hilly Fields" inspired Andy Partridge to launch XTC's psychedelic
alter egos, The Dukes of Stratosphear.
The vinyl edition of Psychotropia of last year included all released and unreleased singles
tracks, other outtakes recorded around the same time and a couple from the latter half of the 1990s.
It seems the renewed interest in Nick's music has inspired him to write new songs. The title track
was not present on the vinyl edition of the album, recorded earlier this year. It's one of the five
extra tracks on the CD, a kind of "Tomorrow Never Knows" sunken into deep layers of psychedelic mayhem,
wild guitars and sound cut-ups. A one of a kind track! "On The Beach (The Ladder Descends)" and
"Everyone Knows" of the 1990s are both elegant ballads with distorted vocals. The former in particular,
partly reminds of songs by Porcupine Tree at the same time, whereas "Heaven's Gate" (from 2004) has
symphonic and unmistakably English qualities.
On some of the older songs the notorious rhythm box of the era is easily discernible when not
drowned among the varieties of other instruments and effects. "Remember" in particular sound a bit
dated - or nostalgic - today. "Treeline", the flipside of Nick's first single "DCT Dreams" from 1980,
could've started the entire English synth movement of that decade, with leanings towards Kraftwerk.
The other B-side to be released, "49 Cigars" is another psych-synth-goodie with guitars crawling forwards,
backwards, upside, down and more overtly humorous than the rest here.
"Hilly Fields" is by far the most well produced song of the album. It fully demonstrates Nick's
potential as a studio whiz kid. If only EMI had promoted the single to some extent or he had been
given more studio time after the single flopped in Britain... The planned successor "On The
Coast" is represented in two different versions here, recorded in 1982 and 1983 respectively. The
latter, only available on the CD, includes that elegant cello again and a surprising trumpet. Very
neat and a worthy successor that never was, until now. The CD version of Psychotropia confirms
my statment from last moonth that "Hilly Fields (1892)" is very well worth checking out in any format.
It also proves that Nick has more to offer.
A Nick Nicely homepage tells more about the mysteries
and history of his music.
Copyright © 2004 JP