Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album Review: Willie Nile – Streets of New York

His best album. Some critics have called it his London Calling: a better reference point would be Sandinista, given how New York-obsessed the Clash were on their final masterpiece. This cd – Willie Nile’s sixth full-length album, released midway through last year – finds the NY underground rock eminence grise at the top of his game and the peak of his career, 25 years after he started, when Vagabond Moon was the #1 song of the year in Norway. Yeah, Norway. The folks stateside got it for awhile – just listen to the audience on Nile’s Archive Alive album, recorded in front of thousands in Central Park in 1981– but the corporations didn’t. No great surprise.

 

Nile’s trademark is the Big Rock Anthem, filled with Big Catchy Hooks, and this album is replete with them. It’s two-guitar, four-on-the-floor meat-and-potatoes R&R, with a nod to the Who, a wink to Dylan and a big high-five to vintage, Darkness on the Edge of Town-era Springsteen, seen through the skewed prism of early 80s new wave.  Good stuff. Mellencamp (and Mary Lee’s Corvette) lead guitarist Andy York is Nile’s not-so-secret weapon here, leading the jackhammer assault with an uncommon mastery of tones and textures – Twin Turbine fans will dig this record. The rhythm section of Brad Albetta (also of Mary Lee’s Corvette) on bass and Rich Pagano on drums kicks ass; the melody guy and the rhythm guy lock in and push this sleek, powerful vehicle to the limit.

 

The cd kicks off with the stomping Welcome to My Head, a surreal blast of West Village imagery. The album’s most obvious choice for a radio hit is Game Of Fools, which sounds like the Wallflowers. Ridiculously catchy, the lyrics of the verse firing like a Gatling gun right up to Nile’s trademark killer chorus. Nile’s requisite long Irish ballad (he has a fondness for these) is The Day I Saw Bo Diddley in Washington Square, featuring none other than Jakob Dylan on harmony vocals. The sad, towering anthem Fading Flower of Broadway reportedly brought York to tears when Nile first played it for the band: it’s a ruefully gorgeous Times Square mise-en-scene, set in an era before Disney came through and wiped it off the map.

 

Another standout track is Cell Phones Ringing (In The Pockets Of The Dead), lyrically the most Dylanesque of all of them. With its cleverly phased noise guitar solo and tricky false ending, it reminds of the explosive, percussive power of Nile’s 1980 FM radio hit Old Men Sleeping on the Bowery. The last 30 metal-melting seconds of this song, a scorching evocation of the Madrid train bombings, alone justify the price of the album (although the same could be said for the paint-peeling vindictiveness of The Best Friends Money Can Buy, a delirious blast of derision at the trust fund crowd).

 

It’s also nice to hear Nile – who began his career as a keyboardist and remains a potent player – featured on piano here, especially on the overtly Blonde on Blonde-inflected piano/organ shuffle Back Home and on the album’s title track, a Jungleland-esque ballad that closes the album on a gorgeously climactic note. For not only is this a great rock record, it’s a piece of history: the places Nile immortalizes here will soon be gone. Mamoun’s Falafel? Soon to be replaced by a Starbuck’s and luxury condos upstairs, no doubt. That is if they don’t raze the whole building. Get this album if you have any affection whatsoever for this city and what it used to be or know anyone who does. CD’s are available in better record stores, online and at shows. Nile is no dummy: he doesn’t play that many live shows in NYC anymore, so there’s always a full house when he does, watch this space.

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May 1, 2007 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Excellent on the ball review, but the should be single isn’t mentioned i.e. “Asking Annie Out”

    Comment by Paul Brennan | May 8, 2007 | Reply

  2. thanks. you really think that’s the single, huh?

    Comment by delarue | May 8, 2007 | Reply

  3. […] NILE Streets of NYC https://lucidculture.wordpress.com/2007/05/01/album-review-willie-nile-streets-of-new-york Live at the Turning Point […]

    Pingback by Index « Lucid Culture | January 19, 2008 | Reply


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