After the celebrated solo acoustic guitar album Doubles, in 2011, Irish guitarist Cian Nugent brought in the Cosmos for 2013's sprawling exercise in jamming, Born with the Caul. Though still primarily instrumental, the latter revealed how many other influences -- from Television to the Grateful Dead, from Pentangle to Fairport Convention -- lie in his playing and composing ideas. Night Fiction is the first album to showcase Nugent as a singer as well as a formidable guitarist. The tunes aren't built on riffs and vamps so much, but crafted as songs. The Cosmos -- drummer David Lacey, electric violist Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh, bassist Conor Lumsden, and organist Brendan Jenkinson, plus a selectively applied horn section, return on Night Fiction. Recorded by Girl Band's Daniel Fox, this seven-song set contains the same immediacy and energy as its predecessor, but adds more musical variety. "Lost Your Way" recalls Lloyd Cole & the Commotions circa Rattlesnakes. Sweeping viola fills twist amid ringing guitars, swelling organs, and tapping hi-hat, all revolving around a tight rock hook. On "First Run," Nugent reveals himself a fan of Scottish post-punk band Doll by Doll and its late frontman, songwriter Jackie Leven. On the dreamy "Shadows," painted by glorious melancholy horns, one can hear the Divine Comedy's Neal Hannon haunting the margins, but Nugent's stinging, bluesy solo and direct, poetic lyrics are all his own. "Lucy," a solo acoustic guitar instrumental track, reminds listeners of Nugent's roots in the Takoma guitar school and the fingerstyle traditions of Bert Jansch and Davy Graham. Fine as all this is, closer "Year of the Snake" makes the album worth its purchase price. Over 11-and-a-half minutes, it marries the spacy, droning, acid visions of Spacemen 3, the swirling, raucous snarl of the Velvet Underground, and the hypnotic lock groove and improvisational acumen of Television. Given such a stunning conclusion, it's easy to forget all the various places Nugent & the Cosmos visited just a few minutes earlier, though repeated spins will cure that without blunting its power. Nugent may not distinguish himself from his influences on Night Vision, but, like fellow guitar slinger Ryley Walker, he couldn't care less. He's only interested in playing the music he likes and growing from what he learns in doing so. In the process, we get a killer rock & roll album.
Night Fiction Review
by Thom Jurek