Nikki Sudden / Rowland S. Howard

Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc

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In 1987, former Swell Maps and Jacobites member Nikki Sudden teamed up with Rowland S. Howard of the Birthday Party and Crime & the City Solution to create this exercise in raw, mutant blues. Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc sounds like it was recorded in the middle of a lengthy, sleepless night, with the long shadows of romantic obsession and emotional unrest visible in the background as Sudden sings songs of fractured love and emotional treachery, as Howard helps sculpt ragged but emphatic musical backdrops, some delicate and some full of clamor and discord. While the songs are literate, they often sound slightly rough and unfinished, as if Sudden is improvising bits of this material as he goes along, and though Howard's contributions seem a bit more careful, the music also suggests that "first thought, best thought" was the motto behind these sessions as he paints on layers of guitar, keys, and noise. With the acoustic guitars sounding thick and sturdy as the wiry slide riffs wind around them, Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc plays out its blues inflections honestly enough (sometimes recalling the more subtle work of Nick Cave, Howard's sometimes collaborator), and the bittersweet, Dylan-influenced narrative of "Debutante Blues" is no less sincere than the rancor of "Sob Story" or "Snowplough." Sudden and Howard were both artists who thrived on collaboration, and here the two enjoy an effective creative give and take, as they find a common ground between Sudden's acidic balladry and Howard's clever but shambolic noise. A sometimes stark but satisfying work, Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc is memorable enough that Sudden and Howard should have spent a few more evenings together working out sounds like this.

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