In March 2014, Canadian outfit Nap Eyes released 200 copies of their début LP Whine Of The Mystic, presumably foreseeing modest interest. The album stirred up enough interest to demand a subsequent full re-issue though, with the second release seeing a run of 3,000 vinyl copies. Upon reaching a larger audience, the album attracted considerable praise for its subtle psych-folk, with positive comparisons to The Velvet Underground among others.
Truth be told, there was little on show that delved into the often deep fuzzy explorations of Lou Reed and co., although the excellent seven minute jam No Fear Of Hell Fire did its best, with its reverb-soaked guitars. This aside, there was a firm foot in a more subtle rock territory walked by bands such as Ultimate Painting.
For second effort Thought Rock Fish Scale this path is pursued with more (ahem) vigour. Whilst the debut was pronounced as a ‘dark, drunken night’, the follow up sounds not so much a wind down after the night before but more of a downright lazy struggle even to get out of bed.
Nap Eyes work from lo-fi roots and have aimed to do so since their 2011 formation. The new album was recorded in four days on a four-track, preferring the ‘live to tape’ route rather than more modern methods; this approach means their sound is often more laid back than a corpse. Bizarrely, you would think that the turnaround between recording and releasing would be rather quick but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. The debut was recorded in March 2013 before the initial run a year later, and the second album was then laid down in May 2014 – a gestation period more elephant than guppy, and the pace of their material fits accordingly.
Album opener Mixer plods along like a tortoise, conjuring up an image of a small, sparsely populated American bar nearing closure for the night, the live act winding down as the dwindling clientele continue to slope off into the night. Don’t Be Right follows the same path, threatening to develop into an intriguing effort without quite taking off whilst Stargazer ticks along to a gentle thumping drum and brooding bass, a catchy piece of guitar noodling being the highlight.
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Nigel Chapman may be a nerdy biochemist by day but his lyrics often prove more interesting than the music for these lower key moments. Alaskan Shake, for example, sees twanging guitars taking a back seat to his murmurings stating that “heartstrings break and twist into little pieces and snap like a brittle shoelace”, although the closing line of “my old late great great great great great grandmother mother mother” would suggest he’d been stealing ideas from a five year old’s homework.
Chapman’s Reed-like drawl will probably grate after a while, but when the music does climb above the snoozily mediocre it matters not. Click Clack enjoys a slightly faster pace, better melody and pace-changing slacker rock passages whilst Roll It will leave you swaying between thoughts of ‘is this hideously catchy or is it desperately annoying?’. Pick of the bunch for any VU or Lou Reed fans though will be the comparatively excellent Lion In Chains as it walks a slow, reverb/tremelo brushed path of reflective moodiness.
With Thought Rock Fish Scale lacking anything substantially enthralling like No Fear Of Hell Fire, this collection may sadly be living a dusty shelf life a little too quickly, which is a shame because the songs are good enough but just too samey and lifeless. Those that prefer a little excitement would probably be best giving the album a miss and checking out the début instead; in all honesty, you’re more likely to find more thrills at one of your ‘old late great great great great great’ grandmother’s knitting and sewing evenings.