By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness | Dead Calm (Pretty Olivia, 2019)
When Spain’s Pretty Olivia Records released a split single with The Tree House Melodies and the mysterious-but-familiar-sounding The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness back in July of last year, it was fairly obvious, at least to me, that the perpetually nervous boys were at least, in part, Scotland’s least-of-all-nervous purveyors of gorgeously melodic and harmonic pop, Dropkick. I mean, it was as if TBWTPN was a jumble of letters that, when rearranged, would reveal the band’s true identity right before your eyes.
And it came to pass, with the announcement of TBWTPN’s full-length album, Dead Calm, that the cat, or the nervous boys, in this case, was out of the proverbial bag. TBWTPN is a golden duo featuring Dropkick’s Andrew Taylor, who wrote music for the album’s 10 songs, and Gonzalo Marcos, from the indie pop group El Palacio de Linares, who wrote the lyrics. Gonzalo played the drums; Andrew was responsible for everything else.
Named after the song “The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness” by the Feelies, from their 1980 album, Crazy Rhythms, TBWTPN recorded Dead Calm in Madrid, Spain and Edinburgh, Scotland over two sessions last October. Andrew and Gonzalo came together after a visit to Scotland by Gonzalo and his family.
“The idea of doing something was really spontaneous,” remembers Andrew. “In summer 2017, Gonzalo visited Edinburgh for a holiday with his family. We’ve known each other for a while. He had promoted our first Dropkick show in Madrid in 2011 and released a limited CD pressing of our album Homeward in 2014.
“We planned to meet up and show him Dropkick HQ. I suggested we should record something, as he is a drummer. He sent me some words for a song called “Nervous Man.” I chopped up the lines to fit the first thing that appeared in my head. Next day we recorded it. It eventually came out as a split 7-inch for a Pretty Olivia giveaway single for loyal customers (pairing “Nervous Man” and The Tree House Melodies’ similarly-fashioned “All I Understand” – Alan). I thought it was a nice one-off thing.”
The writing of the songs went quickly. “The songs were pretty much written in a couple of evenings,” says Andrew. “Just went on instinct. Revised nothing and left it ‘fresh’.
“In Madrid we recorded together, [Gonzalo] on drums and me on acoustic and vocal. The takes are mostly first or second takes and very rough, done live with glass between us. A few days after, I overdubbed the bass, harmonies and electric guitars in Edinburgh. Probably less than 20 hours recording time. [The album] was mixed and mastered the following week.
I sent it to Pretty Olivia and had no idea of the plans for release or when it would come out. It’s all a lovely surprise.”
Dropkick fans, and really any fans of melodic pop who smile a mile wide at the sound of rich harmonies and gorgeous melodies, will embrace this album with open arms. Andrew and Gonzalo have created a little slice of heaven, as even a listen to the very first song will attest.
The album opener, a jubilant, poppy, uptempo statement of purpose titled “TBWTPN,” sets the mood quite efficiently, with its melange of catchy melody, harmony, Byrdsian guitars, and Teenage Fanclub ambiance. Songs like the jangly “Close the Doors,” with its supremely catchy chorus, sporting some truly luminous harmonies, and a very ’60s kind of electric guitar solo, and the aforementioned “Nervous Man,” typify this warmhearted collection of lovely songs.
Mostly composed of upbeat numbers, Dead Calm does settle into a balladic mood with a pair of slower, thoughtful songs. “Need You to Know,” a quietly pretty specimen, puts the spotlight on Andrew’s soft, measured vocals and his understated acoustic guitar (the wordless harmonies that take over the soundfield for the last 30 seconds are so affecting, they made me shiver with delight). The relatively short title song which closes out this truly magnificent collection is another pretty piece of work, so quiet that you can hear the squeaks emitted as Andrew moves his fingers across his guitar’s fretboard. It’s an emotional performance that will stay with you for a very long time.
The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness, known in their everyday skin as Dropkick’s Andrew Taylor and El Palacio de Linares’s Gonzalo Marcos, have produced a landmark recording that is nothing less than an aural document that shows how it is done. You will likely not find a better example of harmonic and melodic excellence this year.
Dead Calm is a masterpiece of melody and harmony.
Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.
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