Nowicki makes pop music but the raw ingredients to produce these songs seems to be drawn from everything but pop music. In a way it reminds me of what we have lost from the genre. Today the term implies slick, dance routine accompanied, chart bound, disposable, identikit songs which confirm to very tight rules and regulations but it wasn’t always so and Nowicki remind me of those earlier times when things were less homogenised, more exploratory, more experimental. It also differs from the accepted pop norm in that it threads lots of lyrical humour and wry narratives through the songs, something at odds with the modern po faced idea of what pop should be about.
And if opening salvo All About You starts us off in fairly familiar pop-rock territory, we are soon well off of the beaten musical track and following a sonic road less travelled. Make This Feeling Stay is a sassy latin infused swagger, Dark Blue is a chamber-pop serenade that tips its hat, probably a natty Fedora in this case, to the golden age of the crooner and the wonderfully named Biggleson’s Emporium is a song that the likes of Randy Newman would have been happy to have on his musical back catalogue.
And it is this last reference which is perhaps the most applicable, for the real charm of the album lies in the mordant style that Nowicki adopts, a sharp, playful and sometimes wonderfully biting lyrical way with the pen. This more than anything that sets the record (yes, I still call them records, get over it) apart from the pack. The modern pop picker seems to have been happy to trade in musical elegance and lyrical eloquence for a vacuous and repetitive beat…what I am given to understand is called a “banger” in modern parlance. Well, give me a song with a deft and deliciously crafted tune and some intriguing and satirical lyrical content any day of the week. Or, in the case of Initiation, give me nine of them.