Wigwam

Nuclear Nightclub

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When Finnish band Wigwam signed with England's Virgin label in 1974, it was an indication they wanted international success, and Nuclear Nightclub, the first fruit, showed they'd changed enough to hopefully achieve it. This reissue of that disc, with seven bonus tracks, highlights the wonderfully idiosyncratic songs from the pen of keyboard player/vocalist Jim Pembroke, backed up with some superb, tight musicianship. "Tram Driver," a single, never hit the charts, but still sounded good with its maddening chorus of "tram driver," while the title track offered quirky prog lounge music for a new generation. The band toned down the extended pieces and instrumentals that had featured heavily on its previous albums in favor of new work like "Freddie Are You Ready" (more catchiness) and "Save My Money and My Name," while the playing on "Do or Die" highlighted the chops without the tedium. In many ways they allied themselves to the British Canterbury Scene, especially Caravan, with a strong sense of the absurd, a good sense of the pop songs -- choruses always featured heavily -- and a deftness and lightness of touch that was never more in evidence than on this record. Why it never broke through remains a sad mystery; they certainly deserved better, and this expanded edition of what may well be their finest album (outside of a greatest-hits package only available in Finland) does them and their lovely little ways full justice.

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