“Still Gushing” from Nocturnal Blonde
Big beats and grinding grooves assault us from every direction in “Ricochet.” By contrast, “Still Gushing” relishes the soft, gentle rhythm of a more conventional singer/songwriter sound. “Wings and Horns” sparkles, but not enough to distract us from the darkness of its lyrics, brought to us in a tightly-packaged serenade from singer Rachel Adams. Her glowing vocal prowess injects “Flesh” with a brittle harmony that is as fragile as the theme of its narrative is. “Scripted” sways quite evenly at the onset of its daring string dispatches only to transform into a psychedelic-tinged alternative rock ballad by the 60-second mark in the track. Whether they’re communicating through textured melodies in “Oh, D,” cutting vocalizations in “Smart Heart,” “All Those Angels” and its reprisal in “Almost an Angel,” spindly acoustic tones in “Drained” or distorted grooves in “This House,” Nocturnal Blonde aren’t pulling any sonic punches in their new album Still Gushing, a record that I think belongs on any credible music critic’s top ten list this August without debate.
Gut-wrenching emotion, heavenly harmonies and pendulous rhythms come together to make a cocktail of unmistakable melodic might in Still Gushing, but there’s scarcely an occasion in its tracklist on which we feel like Nocturnal Blonde are going out of their way to shock us with the substance of their poetic statements. After coming dangerously close to losing his brother Dave to the throes of opioid addiction, Richie Williams sought to create a vivid work of art in this LP that stops just short of progressivism while still experimenting with conceptual elements around every turn. “Blown Away” bleeds right into “Ricochet” much in the same way that “Oh, D” sets us up for the final bow of the band in the title track, which for all intents and purposes brings us full-circle to where we first began with the tear-jerking “Smart Heart.” There’s a seamless fluidity between the songs, making the album sound more like one big story being told in various chapters instead of a mere assortment of potently evocative tracks. Michael Stipe’s input is all over the framework of Still Gushing, but make no mistake about it – this record is Nocturnal Blonde’s and Nocturnal Blonde’s alone.
I wasn’t aware of their music before getting introduced to this latest release just recently, but I must say that I am very interested in hearing more from this amazingly talented Athens crew in the future. If this ended up being the last time that they were to get into the studio together, it would be a truly great shame not only for their scene but for contemporary alternative music in general; what Nocturnal Blonde imparts to us in these compositions goes well beyond what most addiction-inspired CDs ever would in helping audiences to not only understand the matter at hand, but to feel the full scope of emotions that come with such a bitter struggle for survival. Having known too many people, men and women alike, that have faced this battle on their own, Still Gushing is a one of a kind listen that I would tell every American to take a look at upon its release this Friday.