The Nectarine No. 9
I Love Total Destruction
roduct”. Say it out loud. Go on…“PRO-DUCT”. Nasty wee bugger, isn’t it? Did you notice the sneer that appeared on your face as the syllables were spat out? The way your canines appeared, like you were about to suck the blood out of something vital? It’s an ugly enough word when used in isolation, but it takes on nigh sinister connotations when it’s parked (illegally) in a sentence that includes that old chestnut “art”. It’s like listening to someone talking about abattoirs while you’re tucking into a rare steak; you just don’t want to link the end result with the tortured path it took to get to you.
So, bearing that in mind, it’s always a pleasure to find a band who are seemingly inoculated against the problems of product, yet produce album after album of buried treasures, and The Nectarine No.9 are just such a band, led by lifetime awkward squad member and twisted pop genius Davy Henderson. Davy’s first band The Fire Engines turned up in Edinburgh at the beginning of the 80s just as the jingly-jangly sounds of the Postcard Label made the parochial music hacks in London begin to take notice of Scottish music. Sadly, as The Fire Engines sounded less like Aztec Camera and Orange Juice and more like a bunch of machine workers who’d come back from their lunch break to find that someone had nicked all their power tools and replaced them with instruments yet had gone back to the assembly line nonetheless and tried to make cars with them…well, it’s not giving anything away to say that they lasted for one album before splitting up. Henderson next surfaced in Win, who came to prominence in the UK after soundtracking a bizarre Escher-like TV commercial (look, it *was* the 80s) for McEwan’s lager with the melodic, keyboard-driven “You've Got The Power”. Win (I can only assume the name was ironic) were in retrospect Henderson’s attempt to have his cake and eat it; although the music was far more accessible, (funky, even) the lyrics had became pointedly political, exemplified by their single “Un-American Broadcasting”. Two albums later, they’d gone the way of the Dodo.
And thus began the great Nectarine saga; Davy’s third band, a bunch of reprobates (including Pop Group/Rip Rig and Panic alumni Gareth Seger on guitar) who are capable of delivering just the kind of punky-funky party that the Henderson CV has always hinted at. While the band can be as abrasive as The Fire Engines at their best, they’ve slowly morphed into an avant-rock group who are now just as likely to drop addictive hooks and hip-shaking beats as they are to sound like Black and Decker’s new product line. Think of an alternative reality where the Velvet Underground and Beefheart acted as Prince’s main influences…and you’re kinda, sorta on the right track. The group is a welcome change from the gaucheness that seemed front-loaded into jock-pop from the 80s onwards; you won’t catch this bunch deploying archly rhyming six-form poetry while smiling shyly from their album covers. Instead, you get songs dripping with examples of Henderson’s bizarre black belt in non-sequiturs, backed by, to quote the man himself, a “heavy gothic (gusset?) funky groove” that makes Moe Tucker’s drumming sound positively polyrhythmic by comparison. It all makes about as much sense as the plot of an Oliver Stone film, but it’s twice as much fun, too. There’s pop, of sorts (“I Love Total Destruction”, with its sweet organ-driven chorus); messy, skuzzy rock (“The End of Definition”); art-jazz instrumentals (“Leonardsfoamkremolacone”)…all human life is here. And while this isn’t as strong as their retrospective It's Just The Way Things Are Joe, It's Just The Way Things Are, the title track alone ensures that you will return to this gem again and again, just to hear Davey droll lines like “Heavy pharmaceutical / Plant plantation!” with untouchable, immeasurable cool.
Reviewed by: Dave McGonigle
Reviewed on: 2004-04-02