The Nightingales

Pissed & Potless: The Definitive Nightingales Collection

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This anthology very much emphasizes the singles, EPs, and mini-LPs by the Nightingales; just four of the 19 tracks are taken from their two full-length LPs. That makes it quite useful for fans and collectors, particularly as many of the songs had not appeared on CD before, although it should be noted that several tracks from their non-LP releases are not included. Covering the period 1981-1986, the music is very much of its early-'80s time: nagging unmelodic riffs, blurrily enunciated lyrics, choppy rhythms, lo-fi rumbling drums, and stream-of-consciousness verbiage wallowing in bleak detachment. The kind of stuff, indeed, that would have been hard to avoid if you were listening to many a college radio station back then. It may be representative of a certain phase of underground punk/new wave's evolution, but it hasn't aged well. In some respects it's like the amelodic work of the Fall, though the vocals and lyrics don't go to the passionate extremes that Mark E. Smith did and does. It's not just a question of limited musical range, but of a limited emotional palette as well: song after song of fairly rigid adherence to these elements makes one feel as emotionally numb as the states the group themselves depict. Perhaps by some standards that could be deemed a success, but many listeners, even committed avant-garde rock fans, are looking for a more engaging worldview. When they actually use some more notes in their riffs and some organ and fiddle on the cuts from the 1986 album, it's downright shocking in comparison with what's gone down before, though still not that good. The eye-straining small print and color-blind-test graphics of the liner notes are no more accessibly presented than the music.

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