Mr Nutley’s Strange Delusionarium – 4.5/5 @ Sputnikmusic.com
Summary: Department S have not attempted to make any radical changes in musical direction since dis-banding in 1982, but have refined and enriched their previous work while seamlessly slicing in their new songs. ‘Nutley’ features humour, perception and irony.
‘Clap Now’ opens with the crude voice of a fairground showman talking over a wind-up organ, luring us to a place where nothing is quite as it seems, followed by laughter and wild applause from a ghostly crowd, we are thrown into the depths of retro funk mayhem laced with psychedelic punk and the raw ingredients of a lethal rock cocktail. Eddie Roxy’s commanding vocals with the band’s furious, crashing pace is head-spinning. That’s just the aperitif….
‘Monte Carlo or Bust’ opens up with an original unreleased version recorded as a B-side and produced by Mott’s ‘Buffin’ and Overend Watts, it continues to keep us in a spin as it slides into the present with passages of guitar distortions and feedback. Dripping with fast and furious punk guitar clichés and they know it. It’s hard not to be drawn back to beer-sodden, sweaty nights at the Marquee.
‘My Coo Ca Choo’ ensures no leather jumpsuits are necessary as Roxy says it all with his playful, flirty vocals and a hint of neediness. This track displays one of those gems of guitar-playing from Mike Herbage which demonstrates his passionate mastery of rock and roll chording.
‘Age Concern’ begins with a sample of the original demo recorded 31 years ago, then effortlessly moves into current vocals by Roxy against a back-drop of Stuart Mizon’s reggae-style drum thumping, an effective, simple bass line thanks to Mark Taylor’s understated skills and hypnotic, compelling guitar lines by Sam Burnett.
‘Ode To Koln’ has an evocative guitar solo playing over an newsreader’s archive audio which brings us to the haunting lyrics. A difficult subject matter to listen to but it’s treated respectfully and with no theatrics. Thought provoking arrangement and produced with a sensibility.
‘Wonderful Day’ lifts the mood; it’s probably the most commercial song on the L.P. One to blast out of the car windows, if only to annoy the kids. Crashing guitars, banging percussion, coffee bar bongos, it’s all thrown in and a fine show of Mizon’s aggressive drumming and wild slamming while hitting the bass drum on every beat.
‘Going Left Right’ is always a crowd-pleaser. Burnett’s consistent multi-layered guitar-playing combined with Herbage’s driving solo is sublime. Roxy’s shouty vocals compliment the musical misbehaviour of the band. They’re having fun and it shows.
‘Is Vic There’ is probably the best known track. We are teased with the noise of the mingling crowd and a dreamy piece of guitar meandering, then the familiar opening chords come into play and we’re off. It’s like their home territory but nothing comfortable about this new version, it’s has all the power and energy of the original single but far more effective and intricate, including smashing, evocative and climactic pieces. A tip of the hat goes to Roxy who had big shoes to fill with the lead vocals after Vaughn Toulouse had done such a legendary job with this one.
‘I Want’ contains lyrics that are probably more fitting to today’s capitalist society where Reality TV seduces greed-driven misfits to disposable fame and riches. The end of the track is a driving solo by Herbage that builds into a manic, structured frenzy thanks to Mark Taylor’s pumping bass, Burnett’s masterful phrasing and Mizon’s devilish drumming.
‘Slave’ provides the greatest surprise on the L.P. Roxy delivers a menacing strong, vocal and there’s an almost malevolent tone in which the band communicates. Roxy sleazes in with ‘Girl, won’t you be my slave tonight?’ while the band steam in with hard-core rock music pulsating through the speakers. It’s the final track and there’s no let up. It ends with a delicious and exhausting ecstasy followed by the fairground showman’s satanic laughter….