The Nude Party
4 out of 5 stars
Videos by American Songwriter
Videos by American Songwriter
The pride of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina (where they formed), The Nude Party’s third album continues the outfit’s multi-hyphenated musical evolution.
The sextet’s combination, some may say collision, of blues, swamp, and twang are once again dragged into the garage, dusted with Todd Rundgren’s pop dust and energized with a ragged but right bluster. The difference this time is that recording in their own studio and self-producing the sessions allowed the songs to evolve naturally instead of shoehorning performances into a strict number of days. While there is plenty of caffeinated vitality to these thirteen tracks, the vibe is a bit more relaxed. Surprisingly scrupulous yet never fussy overdubs reveal a more mature but still frisky sense of how The Nude Party constructs its tunes.
From the lazy J.J. Cale goes to Hawaii twang of “Midnight on Lafayette Park” (describing the night the National Guard violently quelled the peaceful protests in that Washington DC space a few years ago), to the cowbell ringing over trashy organ in the retro rocking “Hey Monet” and their bluesy version of Dr. John’s voodoo grooving “Somebody Tryin’ to Hoodoo Me” (the set’s only cover), these guys keep the raw fires that lit their two previous releases, aflame.
Much of the band’s success rests on lead singer Patton Magee’s shoulders. Part rough, louche snarl, and all heart, his vocals may not be technically impressive but they sure are charming. The combination of Lou Reed, Luna’s Dean Wareham, and Ray Davies with a side helping of Dylan and Mick Jagger creates the thread stitching these rather diverse tunes into a ragtag, somehow cohesive whole.
The approach gets soulful on “Tell ‘Em” when Magee sings ‘Cause my mouth moves fast when my mind moves slow as the band kicks into a lazy, tuneful groove inspired by a New Orleans undertow. They go full Stones’ “Fool to Cry” ballad mode on “Sold Out of Love” complete with backing singers.
There’s a distinct historical slant too. Opening “Cherry Red Boots” with Phil Spector’s trademarked “Be My Baby” drum figure, then bringing in the Byrds’ chiming guitar, dollops of doo-wop street corner vocals, and wrapping it in a laid-back Zombies swagger shows that the group’s music knowledge runs deep as they proudly display their influences.
“Ride On” describes how their struggles in the music biz are taken in stride, singing I play in a rock’n roll band / I make my living with my mouth to my hand/ Sometimes they play us on the radio with a pinch of snark leavened with just enough self-deprecation.
It’s impossible not to appreciate that The Nude Party loves what they’re doing, even if describing their overall ambiance is difficult. Few songs immediately jump out but when the album is over, you’ll want to hit the repeat button.
That’s what any band hopes for and what The Nude Party delivers on the subtly irrepressible Rides On.
Photo by Clark Hodgin / New West Records