w/Federation X, Afrirampo, Levi Fuller
Tues July 5, Funhouse, 9:30 pm, $7.
Listen. Do you hear that sound? Cash registers jingle—k-chingg!—across America as one more pretty white boy discovers how to inject gravel into his voice and whine. The legacy of Nirvana lives on in a thousand bad hair days and dismal MTV videos: Whereas once Kurt Cobain's music recharged a decaying artistic form, now it's synonymous with a previous generation's impotence. Guitar music is now ColdfuckingPlay and Ustink2: dull unimaginative chords played by dull unimaginative boys too ordinary to wet the bed so they piss all over their fans instead.
Nottingham UK-bred Scout Niblett plays a strictly stylized, stripped-back form of rock music—just vocals and a guitar or drums, her plaintive words laid bare for all to hear. Do music lovers look her way, or is her schoolyard chant-song too raw for ears conditioned by years of exposure to MTV, her world too isolated from the masses?
"My lifestyle is solitary, but it's always been that way," says modern-day troubadour Niblett. "Yes, I crave company. I long for it. I have love affairs with places the same way as I do with people. I love it when I have my 'spots' that I can go to, like I had in this Philly diner. I'd walk in, and they'd bring out my coffee and scrambled eggs on rye toast a few minutes later."
Listen closely. Can you hear the noise? The whisper on the breeze, the sound of a million voices wailing. Music lovers know they've been betrayed, but Mr. and Ms. Corporate Machine are too busy worrying about losing profits to ringtones and downloads to start chasing up new sounds. Far better to discover This Year's LiberFuckingTeens, than be an originator. You could argue that music lovers shouldn't look to the Man for solace, but fuck. They always do. They have no idea. Scout Niblett does: "We're all going to die," she chants like a 10-year-old cheerleader, making it sound like the most fun ever. "We're ALL going to die."
"Being on stage is either a nightmare or the best medicine I could have," Niblett laughs. "It depends whether I use the situation or not. If I get self-conscious it's terrifying. But if I use it to let myself really sing and get out of myself, it's the best ever."
Scout Niblett—she of the wigs, and thumped-out pleas to Peanuts characters and heartbeat guitar and distorted playground patterns—owes a greater debt to Nirvana than you'd imagine from an artist who plays such minimal music. Her new album, Kidnapped By Neptune, created last summer with drummer Jason Kourkounis [ex-Mule, the Delta 72, Hot Snakes] in Steve Albini's Electrical Audio studio is full of the kind of powerful, dense, Arc-Weld chords that marked the Aberdeen trio so well. "My voice was strong this time," she says. "I didn't have any problems with it. I existed pretty much on coffee, carrots, and whiskey." Her lyrics are full of turbulence, innocence, and a frighteningly passionate need to communicate; just like Nirvana. So has Kidnapped by Neptune been placed on heavy rotation by 107.7 the End? You tell me.
"I am an astrologer and so I'm really aware of what planet is doing what to me all the time," Niblett reveals. "For the past couple of years the planet Neptune has basically had its way with me. Neptune kind of dissolves your sense of self in order to expand the boundaries of who and what you think you are, but in the meantime you can feel like your identity has been kidnapped or vanished, especially if it was strong or fixed."
You want to listen? I recently saw Scout play a show in support of the all-female, electrifying Electrelane, and she absolutely shredded. Her voice filled the hall. Her chunky guitar tore new edges from the stage. She rattled and she railed and she brought it all back down again, gentle as a newborn baby. She no longer wears a wig onstage. She has no need. No longer stepping out in the shadow of Cat Power or Daniel Johnston, her second full-length album has definitely established her own voice. Really.
"I have two wigs," Niblett says. "I lost one doing a photo shoot for the album, when the sea kidnapped it."
Bring it all back down, music lovers. Bring it all back down. ■