What does it sound like?:
I went to see Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited tour last year, and while watching vocalist Nad Sylvan in all his frock-coated glory I couldn’t help drifting off and wondering who it was he was reminding me of. It remained teasingly just at the edge of my mind until with one flourish and turn the floodgates opened and I realised that it was Martin Short’s turn as Frik in perennial Bank Holiday blockbuster Merlin. Go on – do a Google image search for the pair of them and tell me I’m wrong.
In a sense, that tip of the tongue speculation is both one of the great draws and one of the drawbacks of Nad’s forthcoming long-player The Bride Said No. Obviously he’s coming in with a fair amount of Hackett-shaped baggage, but it’s difficult to completely shake the nagging feeling that he might at any time break into a medley of The Musical Box / Supper’s Ready or present a ready Ian Anderson cackle (coincidentally drummer Doane Perry is among those who serve). At one point he even makes a move on the middle ground occupied by the artists formerly known as Stiltskin. Obviously, if that sounds like your bag, then you’re going to be high in hog heaven by the end of this satisfyingly 33 RPM record-sized collection of brash and blustering epics.
It’s not entirely derivative by any means. There’s a lovely modern sheen to the production – especially the drums – which thankfully doesn’t extend to over-polishing the vocals. Nad remains in satisfyingly human form throughout (ironically, given that much of this album is given over to a concept involving a Vampire, that may not have been his intention) and the high notes are all clearly his own. I’m still not entirely sure if on Quartermaster he doesn’t employ an offhand, endearingly blokey “Oh, you c*nt” part way through, but that’s what it sounded like at the time. Elsewhere, a couple of lovely duet voices materialise, sounding like they’re in the same vocal booth, let alone the same room.
A French Kiss in an Italian Café employs a neat diversion into alternate drum sounds and a quirky sax solo to complement the off-beat mood, but the real centrepiece of this collection is the massive What Have You Done, which starts with a delicate piano intro, builds through some earnest balladeering and then breaks into the guitar solo at exactly the right point. The twist on this is that just as it reaches a presumed climax, a second guitar swoops in in answer and the two conduct a dialogue so lyrical you’d think it had been scripted. It’s no surprise to learn that Nad’s boss at the day job is behind one of those. Having sated the demands of the most Ibanez-fixated widdler, the song drops back down and finishes on a beautifully unresolved piano chord. It’s the highlight of the whole thing and well worth seeking out as a stand-alone piece should you not feel inclined to dip your entire toe in Sylvan’s oeuvre straight away.
The Bride Said No concludes with the title track, wherein many kitchen sinks have been employed in production terms and which presumably the story is resolved to a point, although I couldn’t quite keep up with the narrative. I did, however, keep picturing a lot of dry ice.
What does it all *mean*?
Endearing without having recourse to pomposity, The Bride Said No is a perfectly enjoyable romp through Nad Sylvan’s ideas folder. To quote Frik in Merlin – Handsome is as handsome does.
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