…the astonishing revelation of Rob Lloyd's Nightingales. Formed out of the ashes of blackly-comic Birmingham punk upsetters The Prefects, Nightingales Mk. 1 existed from 1979 to '86, Black Country Magic Banders spinning Daedalian indie skronk around Lloyd's slashing gnomic utterances. Since reforming in 2004, Nightingales Mk 2 have survived - like post-punk fellow-travellers The Fall - as an ever-shifting cast of players, a tightly schooled all-ages boot-camp in the employ of one man's absurdist poetic invective.
Recently retrained at Jochen Irmler's Faust Studio, tonight Lloyd and founder Prefects guitarist Alan Apperley field a side barely three weeks old. Bassist Andreas Schmid, a Faust Studio apprentice, is suitably young and severe, the possible leader of some Marxist-Leninist '70s student cell, in academic black suit and socialist haircut. Skinny in black jeans and black western shirt, hair like squid-ink candy floss, rhythm guitarist Matt Wood resembles a teenage Horrors offcast, while from behind her own heavy witch-black fringe ex-Violet Violet drummer Fliss Kitson pounds out the glam-kosmische bin rhythms. As Lloyd takes the stage - stout, bespectacled, wily smile flickering between joy and contempt - the image is complete; it is the embittered Marxist history teacher fronting the school band, the academy in peril.
With no time for nostalgia, tonight The Nightingales ignore any notion of greatest hits in favour of joyous reinvention. Feeding off the hard-drilled energy of these junior initiates, Apperley spins frayed Bo Diddley riffs around Lloyd's tumbling psychedelic eavesdroppings, allowing the singer to recycle, reinvent and repurpose thirty years of vituperative notebook aphorisms, constructing an intense, breathless narrative from the recycled past to the scorched present. And, like some Christ-like curmudgeon, newly risen to grouse again, Lloyd feeds off the audience fervour, growing stronger, yet ever wary; grinning broadly, flicking the Vs, and mouthing "What the f---?!"
With every repurposed song - plus a combative cover of Gary Glitter's I Didn't Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock & Roll) - the band become yet more powerful, Apperley and the kids locked in a heavy zig-zag groove as Lloyd bellows out caustic images from his mordant world-view, like some Black Country Stuart Staples, holidaying in the window of an Arndale Pound Shop. The cumulative effect is one of euphoric delight, of old knowledge in the hands of new disciples. "Dig the depth of the furrow of mirth that I can plough," sings Lloyd on The Overreactor. Tonight The Nightingales hit an epic new low. Catch them when they're at it again.The Scotsman has this to say:
The combination of youthful fire and Lloyd's grouchy old geezer persona made for a set with real personality. Suited, bespectacled and with the air of the teacher everyone knew not to mess with at school, Lloyd wasn't as cantankerous as the Fall's Mark E Smith, although his insistence that one chatterbox "****ing shut the **** up" was the kind of thing most singers probably wish they had the guts to do.
Although often lost amidst the wash of jazz-shaped discord, battering beat group stomps, primal new wave and psychedelic interludes during tracks like Wot No Blog? and Workshy Wunderkind, Lloyd's lyrics were the highlight of this set. They painted bleak but vivid pictures alongside a drumbeat battering down like rain during Born Again in Birmingham, their anger and humour the main argument for this band claiming the credit they're long overdue.
They (and Ted Chippington) went down well in Bristol. Even the Shropshire Star's getting in on the act!