Nightstick. Nightstick, Nightstick, Nightstick. Remember them? Of course you do – three piece? Featured ex-Siege drummer Robert Williams?
Did three monumentally heavy and increasingly more far-out albums for Relapse back in the late nineties? No?
Had a dancing clown named Padoinka on stage with ’em?
Yeeeeeeah, THOSE guys.
Speaking for myself I hadn’t forgotten ’em: their three albums – 1997’s Blotter, ’98’s Ultimatum, and ’99’s double opus Death To Music – have all been getting regular spins around my gaff since those balmy days and, let me tell you, they don’t get any less heavy over time…quite the reverse, in fact. Blotter‘s version of Pink Floyd’s ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ still sounds like a transmission straight from the super-dense heart of a collapsing dwarf star.
But, you ask yourselves, where have they been since 1999?
Well, drumming mainman Robert Williams formed The Spoils, releasing a 12” entitled …To The Victor via Deep Six back in 2008, guitarist Cotie Cowgill formed a bluegrass band named Cotie Cowgill & The Laid Back Contenders – also guesting on The Spoils 12” – and bassist/vocalist Alex Smith did some jail time (a major factor in the bands hiatus) following the release of Death To Music, but released a 7” with a band called Stinkpipe in 2003 after his release.
As far as I’m aware, there has been enough material for another Nightstick LP floating around for a good few years now, and it has almost happened a couple of times before, but it’s thanks to ever-excellent Scottish label At War With False Noise that Rock ‘N’ Roll Weymouth has finally surfaced.
So, was it worth the wait?
Of course it bloody well was. Opening proceedings up is the band’s anthem and theme tune ‘Nightstick’, a raucous, rawkin’ ripper that proceeds along the same lines as my two Ultimatum faves ‘United Snakes’ and ‘Pig In Shit’ before nose-diving into an atonal mire of sludgy rhythms, guitar mangling – probably literally – police sirens and gunshots. It is fucking awesome. Deadly business-as-usual to some extent, if not a little more vicious than before, but elsewhere, however, there are some serious departures.
‘Let Your Freak Flag Fly’ is built around a choppy acoustic guitar riff, urgent drumming and a dirty-as-you-like bassline, topped off with Cowgill’s acid-fried lead guitar, touches of slide and Alex Smith’s total fuck-you vocalising.
An interesting turn is taken during the latter half of the tune, wherein the band jam out some filthy blues-punk as a series of answerphone messages play out, left for Williams by what is clearly the worlds wussiest promoter attempting to weasel his way out of booking Nightstick for his show, interspersed with Cowgill bursting out into some of his patented frenzied wah-wah lead action. Impressive work, and also, impressive weaselling from the unnamed promoter.
Now we enter what Williams has referred to as the ‘Ummagumma’ portion of the album, wherein each band member contributes a solo piece – as on the afore-mentioned Pink Floyd album.
First up is Cowgill’s short-but-very-sweet downhome slide-driven bluegrass acoustic piece ‘Lila Claire Blues’ , which really is quite lovely.
Said loveliness is swiftly undone by the acrid filthmongering dirge of Smith’s piece, ‘Ode To Lord Vader’ – an extended meditation on the dark side of the force built around a loop of the Dark Lord of The Sith himself, Darth Vader, reminding us “Now I Am The Master”, and the sounds of Smith simultaneously grinding out the ‘Imperial March’ theme from the Star Wars soundtrack on a bass that sounds filthier than Jabba The Hutt’s underpants, and attacking said bass with what sounds like a series of instruments of torture and an angle-grinder.
Finally, Williams lets rip with ‘Impressions Of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude In C Sharp Minor’, a sound-collage of sorts featuring tape loops of marching feet, barking dogs and general military-sounding action spliced together atop a halting version of said Rachmaninoff tune, held together by Williams muscular drumming. Decidedly odd, on the whole, but 100% in fitting with the wilful Nightstick agenda.
Finishing up the album comes the one-two punch combo of slovenly sludge-rocker ‘The Boot Of Discipline’ – a hard pounding number with a relentlessly rolling feel and some fine spaceward-bound playing from Cowgill – and the band’s roughshod lysergic take on the central theme of Strauss’ immortal ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’, as popularised on the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey…and thoroughly UNpopularised here.
It’s good to have these perverse bastards back again, and Rock ‘N’ Roll Weymouth is one of those releases that will really separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak – like musical Marmite, you’re either resolutely IN or completely OUT, with no half measures and no punches pulled.
Nightstick, along with the Melvins and the much-missed Sun City Girls are a bunch of people who do exactly what they want and if you can’t keep up, well, that’s YOUR fuckin’ problem maaaan.
Label: At War With False Noise
Scribed by: Paul Robertson