Label: Tiny Global Productions – PICI-0024-LP
Format: Vinyl, LP, Limited Edition
Country: UK & Europe
Released: 08 May 2020
An air of the unsettled is a staple of Robert Lloyd’s career, from The Prefects’s dank dexterity and jittery paranoia of the first Nightingales’ release, Idiot Strength, onward through four decades of top-notch recordings. If the unique persona of Lloyd and crew always came across on their ten albums and countless line-ups, it was largely as an acquired taste of the musical cognoscenti. Labels good and bad seemed to feel, at one point or another, a public duty and a point of pride to release a Nightingales album before returning to the business of business.
Four Against Fate is remarkable. It’s the work of what’s now the band’s longest-serving line-up. The instrumental precision of any version of Nightingales has been one of the band’s defining hallmarks, but the psychic interplay of a group can take a few albums to kick in with full majesty – here’s proof of that. The rhythm section of Fliss and Andi functions now on a purely intuitive level. Jim’s work now ranks with that of any guitarist in modern ‘rock’ music, not just in originality, but also across an egalitarian mass of inspiration. Each member sings. Although Robert’s voice functions as the band’s superego, Fliss takes lead in several songs. Few bands today sound as much like a single unit as do Nightingales, but this group has the bonus of a distinct and credible musical language, exemplified by The Desperate Quartet, which comes across as both a medieval war march and the anthem of looming apocalypse. When at the song’s halfway point, American classical musician Clara Kebabian’s violin and Mark Bedford’s (of Madness) double bass overtake the Robert, Fliss, Jim and Andi, it’s a jawdropper of such intense perversity that it alone defies the listener to not play the album again from the start.
Not that this album lacks ‘hits’ – The Top Shelf, Everything Everywhere All Of The Time, Devil’s Due and The Other Side are stunners. Robert claims Four Against Fate is the first of his album on which he skips no tracks on playback!
A1 Thicko Rides Again
A2 The Top Shelf
A4 Wicked Winter (Lost In Highland Park)
A5 Then I Felt
A6 The End Began Somewhere
B1 Devil’s Due
B2 Everything, Everywhere, All Of The Time
B3 The Other Side
B4 On The Make
B5 Simple Soul
B6 The Desperate Quartet
Recorded At – Faust Studio
Pressed By – GZ Media – 202429E
Alto Saxophone – Kate Armitage (tracks: A1)
Artwork, Design – Fliss Kitson
Bass, Vocals – Andreas Schmid
Double Bass – Mark Bedford (tracks: B6)
Drums, Vocals – Fliss Kitson
Guitar, Vocals – James Smith (38)
Keyboards – Randy Kuntz (tracks: A3, B2)
Mastered By – Stuart Moxham
Producer, Engineer, Mixed By – Andreas Schmid
Violin – Clara Kebabian (tracks: B6)
Vocals – Sanne Richter (tracks: A3)
Vocals, Mouth Organ – Robert Lloyd
Comes in a plain white sleeve. Includes download card.
Very likely the best album of 2020, and easily the best in a career that’s lasted for decades. “Four Against Fate” is the latest in a string of brilliant releases, but here it all comes together like nothing they’ve done before.
Hot on the heels of an expanded deluxe edition 2xLP reissue of their classic “No Love Lost”, “Four Against Fate” was recorded late last autumn at Faust Studio in Scheer Germany by bassist Andi Schmid and mastered by Young Marble Giants’ Stuart Moxham. It features Clara Kebabian on violin, Kate Armitage from Hotpants Romance on sax, and Mark Bedford from Madness / Near Jazz Experience on double bass.
Hightlights are too many to list – the immediacy of The Top Shelf, the stirring album closer The Desperate Quartet and the what-the-fuck-is-that madness of “Everything, Everywhere, All Of The Time” . . . any one of them (and several others) could be a hit, and the band will be launching another long UK tour starting in April, two jaunts to Europe and more dates later in the year. 2020 will also see the debut of the Stewart Lee / Michael Cumming film about Robert and the band, “King Rocker”, and it’s inevitable that there will be some special performances surrounding that.