In a world that seems to be brimming over with guys with guitars, pop troubadours and fey, indie-folksters it would be very wrong to place Nick Harper anywhere amongst their ranks. Yes, he is a guy. Okay, he has a guitar. But that is where the similarity ends to the new kids on the singer-songwriters block (and whilst we are at it, it’s not a genre!) Over a 12 album career to date he has constantly defied and re-defined what that term means and what it can be, wilfully trampling generic boundaries, switching styles and probably inventing a few of his own along the way. History notes that he met the “Wilderness Kids” at a record store day jam and the sonic potential of a more permanent musical relationship was obvious to everyone. It comes as no surprise as you listen to the album that the “kids”in question are members of Port Erin and Wasuremono, two bands with a similar wide ranging and hard to pigeonhole approach towards rock and pop.
“350 reasons why, written on the side of a bus” is the opening salvo of the album, and straight away you realise that Nick, as always, has something important to tell you. Colours are nailed to masts, sides are chosen and lines are drawn in the sand. Essentially Lies! Lies! Lies! is a comment on the state of the western world, from the manipulation of the masses for political gain to the ugly consumerism of Black Friday, the rise and increasing normalisation of right wing attitudes, to religion, globalisation and everything in between. Lyrically and poetically he just says what many of us think, though the likes of Big Tony who drinks in The George and Dragon may well find himself seething into his pint of John Smiths!
And if the words are as honest as they are challenging, then musically it is just as groundbreaking. Nick has always had the ability to capture a massive sound with just an acoustic guitar, one loaded with rock intensity, folk infectiousness, jazz creativity and classical dexterity, well now he has a band to push that into even wider sonic realms. Leaving The Club is a bluesy groover, Tiina is a lilting ballad with brooding undertones, We Keep Turning Right is built on funky-jazz rhythms and Dark Forces is a fluid and mercurial post-rock growler. It’s a triumph of an album, musically exploratory, lyrically direct and the perfect musical product for our times.
There is an obvious point that if a vote or decision doesn’t go your way, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop making the argument, if that is the case then this is the most pointed and poignant musical debate I have heard in a long time and 48% of the country should buy it immediately.