The first time anyone encounters Nap Eyes, be that in a live or recorded setting, the instant reaction is usually to try and figure out who – or what – they sound like. Their sound is instantly evocative of the other – other times, other sounds, other moods. It’s almost as if their sound has been passed down from other generations, and refashioned to meet the needs of now.
Stylistic forebears from the obvious (Lou Reed‘s first few solo albums and the Velvet Underground) to the slightly-less-obvious (The Clean, The Feelies, Violent Femmes) have all served to map out the path that Nigel Chapman and co. now tread: literate, highly emotional rock music informed by rootsy folk, elegantly trashy glam and/or proto-punk.
Nigel Chapman is, without a doubt, one of the most intriguing frontmen in modern rock. While his lyrics have long been compared to the urban, cerebral poetry of Lou Reed, his voice is increasingly a completely unique proposition: his strong Canadian accent informs the cadence and timbre of his golden croon, while his wry, knowing delivery seems to be both consoling and slightly bitter. Tonight, he plays a gorgeous Fender Jaguar that he constantly fiddles with. His shy, reserved smiles at the crowd and minimal between-song banter is charming, as is his genuine appreciation for the reasonably full room.
The band are tight and well-drilled, and seem to construct the setlist on a whim. There’s also a hilarious moment when the sounds from !!! (chk chk chk) next door bleed through between songs, and Nap Eyes insist that they can be funky too, before playing a few improvised bars of comically bad ‘funk’. It’s not the only funny moment of the night, however, as when the band finish, an intruder mounts the stage and sings a few verses of Ed Sheeran‘s Thinking Out Loud, with a chorus dedicated to cannabis. Honestly.
That lively, jovial atmosphere suits the songs of Nap Eyes completely – they open with a couple from their incredible new album I’m Bad Now – before launching into a variety of tracks pulled from across their three fantastic records. The highlights of the night are glorious renditions of the opening triptych of that latest record – Every Time The Feeling, I’m Bad and Judgment. They show the rapid development of Chapman’s songwriting, and the increasing proficiency of the band.
Thanking the fantastic opener Haley Heynderickx (who made a variety of charmingly self-deprecating jokes and bitter comments about how British people love roundabouts), Chapman remarks how much fun the band are having on the current tour before going into their last tune. It’s a short, energetic set from one of the most interesting bands on the planet – a night to be savoured on a dusty Wednesday in suburban Birmingham.