Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Nomads - Showdown! (1981-1993) [SFTRI, 1994]

Sweden's government is way cooler than our government.

I make this astounding statement because The Nomads' 1995 tour was sponsored by the cultural department of their homeland. Apparently, Swedish working musicians get grants to do overseas tours with the intent of spreading their country's culture. Ironically, The Nomads' stock-in-trade is shit-hot cover versions of mostly American rock 'n' roll artists. That's not to say their influence hasn't touched many draped in the Stars 'N' Stripes. Without The Nomads' early championing of Northwest garage gods The Sonics, would Dave Crider have formed the Mono Men and started Estrus Records? Were it not for their laudable 1984 album Outburst, would Third Bardo's "I'm Five Years Ahead Of My Time" continue to be referenced as a lost '60s classic 25 years down the line? If you take away The Nomads' identifying label, would the drummer from Dead Moon have a T-shirt to wear? Yes or no, these Swedes deserve scads of credit for knowing rock 'n' roll's deep history. Even in 2010, most American bands are too clueless to repeat it.

Think Vampire Weekend would bite the neck of something as scrumptious as The Dictators' "The Next Big Thing"? Leave it to the boys in blue 'n' yellow capes to draw blood with sharpened incisors. Substituting the original's wrasslin'-inspired boast for the intro from Aerosmith's "Back In The Saddle" might seem like the worst trade since the Red Sox's Ruth-fer-junk swap with the Bronx Bombers, but the simple-yet-powerful main riff of the song is wisely untouched. Via a subtle lyric change, The Nomads' signature mark is left on the flesh ("I knocked 'em dead in Dallas/Didn't know we were Swedes"). Back in Beantown, I've always dug the Toxic Twins' treatment of the old barnyard favorite "Milk Cow Blues", because it simultaneously respects tradition and makes its own kind of trouble. Whereas Aero's take mixes harmonicas and heavy metal, The Nomads meld occasionally droning vocals a la The Fall's Mark E. Smith with fuzzy guitar tones. Help! Bessie's udders are sore! If there's ever been a more apt pairing of underdog mentality, it's a band called The Zeros and a tune entitled "Wimp." The L.A. punkers' weight-training program contains enough of a pop supplement to compare their presses to the Ramones' efforts. The Swedes' turn at the bar has them screaming, "MORE WEIGHT!" Heavier than The Hellacopters and Entombed combined, The Nomads' record lift qualifies 'em for the finals of World's Strongest Band. Minor Threat's surprisingly jangly rendition of The Standells' "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" versus the Swedes' reverent run-through? While both attorneys can make strong cases for their clients, this judge bangs the gavel in favor of MT. One question: Upon hearing "Good Guys" for the first time, did Ian MacKaye get himself a crew cut? Link Wray's "Fire And Brimstone" is a track from his 1970 gospel album. Gee-Zuz, what does the praise band at Wray's church sound like? The Nomads' reading comes across like a John Doe/Exene pet project. Haunting stuff. Bend the guitars a little more, and Aussie noisemakers The Scientists would enjoy their time at the pulpit. From a country that once owned our white-wigged ancestors, England gave birth to a god known on a first-name basis as Lemmy. He wrote a song called "Motorhead," which would later become his band's handle. The lyrics of said composition are difficult to completely understand, but the Swedes' hoe-down version clears up much of the haze. I'm able to hear something about a "stick of gum" and a "parallelogram." Cool. When not on tour, Lemmy (AKA God) likes to sit at a bar in Los Angeles and play tabletop trivia games. Unless his drink is being refreshed, God is not to be bothered.

The Nomads' own material such as "Surfin' In The Bars" (one of the best tunes Radio Birdman never wrote), "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls" (featuring Johnny Thunders himself), "Lowdown Shakin' Chills," "Knowledge Comes With Death's Release" and "Real Gone Lover" is also worthy of being covered by like-minded outfits in the present day. Still, if you're looking to hire a band whose set list is as hard-hitting as the jukebox rotation at Blondie's Bar None in Virginia Beach, keep your jones away from the snack bar and send these Swedes plane tickets.

Not to worry, Sweden's cultural department will reimburse the airfare.
-Gunther 8544

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