Nikki Sudden

Groove/Crown of Thorns

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Though Nikki Sudden's liner notes claim that "half of the rhythm section lost all of their enthusiasm" during the making of Groove, that laziness is nowhere evident in the final product. A big, swaggering, barnburner of a record, Groove pits toothy chords against thundering drums, making for what could best be described as post-punk designed to fill Madison Square Garden. The only thing that keeps the affair from being a full-blown bow to stadium rock is Sudden's wobbly, nasal vocals and his stubborn refusal to bow to conventional song structure. Forget anthemic singalong choruses -- Sudden's songs are all verse. Though scattered moments recall the stomp and pout of Marc Bolan, Sudden is too obtuse to be especially sexy. The brash, furious "Great Pharoah" has a two-note vocal melody, and the mournful cover of Neil Young's "Captain Kennedy" is interrupted up by long, loping guitar interludes. Groove works because it revels in the tension between the muscular arrangements and Sudden's passive drawl. On this reissue set, Groove is paired with an expanded edition of the super-rare live compilation Crown of Thorns. Impossible to find outside of Italy, Crown of Thorns plants Groove's bravado in a variety of live settings, turning Sudden and his band loose on everything from the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" to the T. Rex chestnut "Buick McKane." The results are scintillating, and rank among their finest work. From the mopey indie rock blueprint "Tell Me" to the roaring, rollicking "Mess With Me," the group plays like men on fire, making for a listening experience that is joyous and invigorating. As with all of the Secretly Canadian reissues of Sudden's work, the Groove/Crown of Thorns set is packaged with incredibly comprehensive liner notes (including song-by-song commentary from Sudden), extensive period photographs, and two music videos. All in all, an exceptional package.

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