Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Nightwalker: In Shop We Build Electrical Chairs - Professional Music By Nightwalker 1984-93 (1999)

How big of a Robert Pollard/GBV fan are you? Perhaps this album (#3 in the Fading Captain Series) is the ultimate test. From the spelling on the side of the case ("in shop wwe build electrical chairs") to the music within, this Nightwalker album is as far away from another 1999 release, Do the Collapse, as you can get. I personally picked up this disc even after hearing from others how terrible it is, just so I could fill a gap in my Pollard collection, and of course review it for you on this site. I will tell you right off the bat that this disc is in no way essential for the fan, and should be among the absolute last of your Pollard-related purchases...

I personally do not know the specifics of what this disc represents timewise, though a visit to gbvdb reveals that it is mostly a Robert Pollard, Jim Pollard, and Mitch Mitchell collaboration. Perhaps it is a collection of their worst demos? After a drum solo which includes some haunting, reverb, and distant vocals near the end, The Fink Swan (Swims Away) is the first true track. The recording quality will test your personal listening limits, as echo-filled Pollard vocals are sung over a single guitar riff.

Kenneth Ray begins sounding like something from Vampire On Titus, but then the distortion fuzz continues on for over a minute and a half until Pollard begins talking, then screaming, over the same constant beat. Dogwood Grains is a minute-long acoustic track which is somewhat similar to Drinker's Peace, though without nearly as many redeemable features. Amazed is a droning poem recited in front of what sounds like hospital equipment beeping, and Signifying UFO (as well as U235) is a throw-away even on this disc.

Ceramic Cock Einstein may be the most interesting track on the CD, given how it starts out like something you would expect on a Circus Devils release, or as a soundtrack to a Bela Lugosi horror flick. It goes on sounding like backing music for an old black and white fright film until with just over two minutes left, an actual song emerges, but not a good one.

The best song on the entire album is Weird Rivers & Sapphire Sun, and I'm tempted to put it on the playlist just so something from this Nightwalker album will be on it. However, for now, I'll put it on the re-visit list. Trashed Canned Goods may have a better song hiding behind the fuzz, though the bass line is actually pretty cool. And finally, the eleven minute long experimental Those Little Bastards Will Bite is a fitting conclusion for an album that goes absolutely nowhere.

Perhaps there is a point to this album which I completely did not pick up on. I would love to hear from those who listen to Nightwalker regularly, and the reasons for their fondness of it. I might not ever listen to it again, except for maybe Weird Rivers & Sapphire Sun which is the only real bright light here, if there is one. This is among the worst of Pollard's releases, and I'm sure I am not the only fan of his who thinks so. There is so much good stuff out there from GBV, Pollard solo, and side projects like Lexo and the Leepers that make this album unnecessary.

Tracklisting (none make the playlist):
01 Drum Solo
02 The Fink Swan (Swims Away)
03 Kenneth Ray
04 Dogwood Grains
05 Amazed
06 Signifying UFO
07 Ceramic Cock Einstein
08 U235
09 Weird Rivers & Sapphire Sun
10 Trashed Canned Goods
11 Those Little Bastards Will Bite

14 comments:

Michelle said...

I've been waiting for this one..... please reconsider "Dogwood Grains" for the playlist. It's a beautiful song. Just listen again and again..... it's worth it.

The Rock Robot said...

Hi Michelle. I immediately gave "Dogwood Grains" another listen after reading your comment. It still does not hit me the way other similar GBV tracks do. However, I will put it on my re-visit list for now (a list where I put all songs which I simply am not sure of at the time of listen). Often songs where the sound quality put me off at first listen, require further listens before I actually start liking them.

In the case of this CD, I reviewed it after only my second listen. That is not the case with most of the albums I have wrote about so far. However, I just recently got my copy of Nightwalker. Usually before writing about an album, I listen to it in my car while driving to/from my college, so I am not going in completely fresh.

Therefore, if I had more time with Nightwalker, maybe I would have enjoyed it more. However, you can rest assured that I will give Dogwood Grains another chance later on.

Thanks for the comment

Anonymous said...

I have always been attracted to the more experimental side of Pollards music, and this and Acid Ranch rate very highly with me, its mutant psychedelic music,I guess i can see how the indie pop lovers would puke blood if subjected to this for long enough, and maybe thats the point, its stuff like Nightwalker that proves to me that Pollard is so far ahead of all the weak sound-a-like indie bands that its not even funny. Not for everyone i guess, but goddamn it, i love this stuff!!!!

Anonymous said...

I fall somewhere between Rock Robot and Anonymous on this. I don't think it's just self-indulgent, unlistenable garbage (and I really like "Dogwood Grains" and "Weird Rivers & Sapphire Sun"), but it's definitely in the bottom tier.
Does anyone know the story behind "Weird Rivers"? It sounds almost like a Native American chant, that or Bob and friends goofing around. Anyone know for sure? Also, the main riff from "Postal Blowfish" appears in a very slow form in "Those Little Bastards Will Bite." Anyone know which song came first?

The Rock Robot said...

Thanks for the comments. Obviously with any Pollard-related release, there is going to be fans. I guess when I look at an album, my approach is writing for the newer fan (which I still consider myself). I think that it would generally be a bad idea for someone to recommend Nightwalker to a person who is just getting started with Pollard's music, as it could turn them off. However, for someone who is already a huge fan, or at least appreciates anything GBV-related, Nightwalker may in fact be a hidden treasure.

Perhaps the first thing anyone new to GBV should understand is that the fanbase is extremely diverse, and every album/EP/side project/solo album/box set is at least someone's absolute favorite, And on the other side, someone's least favorite. Just look at the threads over at DTS which talk about the top 5 (or whatever) releases to introduce someone to the band, and you will see that other than the consistent B1000, the suggestions are all over the map.

chuck said...

'Also, the main riff from "Postal Blowfish" appears in a very slow form in "Those Little Bastards Will Bite." Anyone know which song came first?'

Just wanted to comment on this...around the time that this record came out, there was an interview with Bob (I believe it was in Magnet, but I'm not positive) where he said that "Those Little Bastards Will Bite" is basically a recording of he and Mitch, ridiculously drunk, jamming on a riff they had just written which would go on to become "Postal Blowfish". I remember he mentioned that they recorded it in the middle of the night, and he said the next day his wife had all his things packed and waiting for him on the front lawn!

Anonymous said...

Dogwood Grains is good, but The Fink Swan (Swims Away) is great. The recording of Fink is not too great, but the melody is quite unique and at times complex. Dig it.

Anonymous said...

I love Ceramic Cock Einstein because the sludgy riffage you hear congealing towards the end was later sourced as a frontpiece abrubptly clipped in the front of 'Paper Girl'. I'd always been fascinated, to an nearly Asbergersian degree, about that 30 second snippet and lo n' behold, there it was -the all of it -it it's aimless, shitfaced glory.

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Anonymous said...

This is the only Bob record I don't think I'll buy, now that I have a superior version of Amazed. Having said that, Dogwood Grains is quite lovely (his voice sounds very early eighties here) and Trashed Canned Goods rocks. But there's nothing as enjoyable as Firehouse Mountain, which I frequently play over and over.