Tuesday, December 19, 2006

 

Nikki Sudden


From being a teenager onwards the highlight at the end of the year was not the presents neither was it getting pissed as we tended to that the rest of the year, but it was that strange object the NME double issue for the Christmas break! I really don't know if it still exists but back in it's hey day it provided us with much entertainment with it's 100 plus pages over the festive season. Apart from special articles, Mark E Smith was always in tune with the spirit of things, commissioned stories and poetry, wonderfully stupid photo spreads, agonising quizzes there were those end of year lists that you could pore over for hour and hours agreeing and disagreeing while you digested your Christmas meal and tried not to upset your extended family. I recently received a mail inviting me to partake in an end of the year top ten album list for another blog, it was while looking back on what I have purchased or obtained over the last 12 months that I stopped and listened again to 'The Truth Doesn't Matter' the final album from the talented hands of Nikki Sudden. I guess a fair number of you won't even know who he was, the past tense is used as his light went out after a gig in NYC on March 26 this year. Nikki was someone who was important to the greater picture largely thanks to his first band Swell Maps that he had formed with his brother Epic Soundtracks who also made his way to the great gig in the sky in November 1997. In their three year existence they released 2 albums and a number of single, cited as being influential by the likes of Sonic Youth and Pavement, their records often obtained ecstatic reviews from the press, what made them important above the music was the DIY/independent nature of their releases that really did show that anyone could do it themselves even a bunch of schoolboys from Croydon. Nikki and his brother were further supported by Geoff Travis who employed them behind the counter of his Rough Trade record shop in London before they were fired after having insulted one rasta too many.
Upon the disappearance of the Swell Maps, Nikki set upon a long solo career sometimes under the guise of the Jacobites, the many albums that he released were of varying quality and often plagued by bad luck. He was not the most fashionable of artists as he was not ashamed of sounding like his heroes: Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and T.Rex. Towards the end of his life it looked as though maybe things were changing he was at long last signed to a sympathetic record label, Secretly Canadian, that actually cared about about him and that had some clout in so far as the label was hip. The album recorded in his adopted home town of Berlin and mixed in London had been completed but not released by the time of his death. It is a very fitting epitaph that this record is probably his most complete album managing to be polished while retaining that loose Stones/Faces feel that he so loved. As was often his case his roots were more than evident and the album cover owes more than a little debt to Bolan's 'Slider'. Two tracks up for grabs today from the album 'The Ballad Of Johnny And Marianne' that is the sound of young New York City in the mid 60's with it's big Spector drum sound and native Italian gang style music . 'Green Shield Stamps' is in altogether another league, imagine that Dylan had been born in Croydon at the end of the 50's beginning of the 60's and maybe he would have come up with something like this, a touching homage to that long gone period and everything that was, well so British, pure nostalgia in fact not that different from what Like Haines has been doing for years.
So there you go just in case anyone does care my vote this year goes to Nikki Sudden and 'The Truth Doesn't Matter not the hippest of choices I know but a damn fine record and one hell of a way to go.

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