The Nils

The Title Is the Secret Song

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Now this is big news. It's been a few years since the sad suicide of Alex Soria finally focused attention (as that act sadly always seems to do, damn it) on his incredible talent, history, and modest back catalog -- mostly with his also-incredible band with older brother Carlos, the Nils. If you've heard, correctly, that this pioneering Montreal group were a Quebecois equal to their contemporary, early Replacements, and a wild precursor to Sloan, then you do need to hear their first three releases, 1982's astounding five-song Now cassette EP, 1985's Sell Out Young EP, and 1986's Paisley EP, succinctly compiled on the indispensable 1997 retrospective Green Fields in Daylight. Their eventual Chris Spedding-misproduced, but still good, rare, eponymous 1987 LP could stand reissue, but this collection of unreleased songs is actually much more valuable -- especially the early going in the vein of Green Fields' high-volume energy. All 13 tracks are great though, and totally stretch out a storied but limited legacy. And not just the 11 "new" Soria songs, some of which are recalled from live gigs. Don't miss the totally haunting -- even if you didn't know how troubled, endlessly shy, quiet, perpetually pot-smoking Alex was -- solo cover of Paul McCartney's less-trodden Beatles for Sale gem "What You're Doing." In Alex's case, the song's frustrating "You" might be the singer's tragic hard-drug abuse and awful depression, not Jane Asher's. What an incredible songwriter; what an awesome set of pipes (with an unmistakable vulnerable side); what a consistently terrific big-guitar band operating at the intersection of punk, garage, heavy power pop, and rock & roll! Here's hoping there are more unreleased recordings of this sterling quality on Carlos' shelves, because this is one band that was truly special. And if that wasn't enough, the DVD also brings back memories of how hot the Nils were live, on 16 well-filmed, super-intense selections -- some of them apparently from a 1986 New York Ritz gig. Despite Alex's poignant introversion, he always sang out with passion once a song began, spurred by a ripping-quick band, and this is like seeing them anew. With poster, photos, and videos too, The Title Is the Secret Song is just plain a mother lode for fans and newcomers alike.