Thursday, January 5, 2023

Jared James Nichols - Jared James Nichols

Listening to the latest, self-titled album by Jared James Nichols, is a bit like Christopher Walken playing Russian Roulette in The Deerhunter.  Every time you pull the trigger on a new track, there’s the strong possibility you’re going to get your head blown off by a heavy calibre riff.  Nichols is good on that front, no question.  When it comes to the quality of the songs though, I reckon a few chambers on this 12-track outing fire blanks.
Jared James Nichols tickles up an understated solo
The tracks that work best are the ones where some subtlety enters the equation. ‘Down The Drain’, for example, opens with a psychedelic, Beatle-ish intro of spangly guitar as the accompaniment to the appealing melody of the verses, which give way to a gutsy chorus powered by a beefy, if derivative, riff.  Nichols’ wah-wah soloing is impressive here, and his vocal is urgent.  ‘Skin’n Bone’ mixes up a slow, squealing, ascending guitar line with a strong tune, and some big slabs of chords, generating some tension along the way.  There’s a brief whirl of a solo and a downshift into a swirling, phased segment, and there’s no excess fat.
‘Shadow Dancer’ is the longest track on the album, and Nichols and his crew make the most of it.  A bendy, effects-laden guitar intro prefaces a dreamy melody, before they step up with a solid chorus over ringing guitar and rolling bass.  Nichols’ vocal is convincingly angsty, and there’s a satisfyingly spacey, anthemic guitar segment, embellished with overdubs.  All in all it may be the best offering here.  There are similar elements on display in the closing ‘Out Of Time’ too, with its patient, echoing guitar theme and flickers of harmonics.  The tune is appealing, delivered in conversational fashion, and there’s an interestingly warped solo as icing on the cake.  All of which suggests that when Nichols is prepared to take his foot off the gas he can deliver some intriguing results.
On the other hand, it’s no surprise to hear that the heavy, mid-tempo ‘Hard Wired’ evolved from a jam with Tyler Bryant and his compadre Graham Whitford.  There’s a wailing intro, some stuttering riffage, and a couple more snippets of interest via a mellow bridge and a solo that scrambles its way into some kind of shape.  But the melody ain’t so hot, and the whole is less than the sum of its parts.  Much the same is true of the opening ‘My Delusion’, which has a stonking rollercoaster riff and a squawking ‘rawk’ vocal, but ultimately sounds like one of TB & The Shakedown’s less interesting, swing-free moments.
The rifferama on something like ‘Bad Roots’ is the real McCoy, with guttural guitar over thunderously rolling drums and pummelling bass.  But the chorus is, not to put too fine a point on it, half-assed.  Much the same is true of the full-throttle ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’, despite its fuzzy, scuzzy guitar chords over the pounding rhythm section, its curious, squeaking little riff, and the downshift into a piercing solo over elasticated bass.
And so on, and so on.  “I’m not trying to be anybody but myself and play the music I love for today,” Nichols says in the PR bumf for the album.  “I’m giving you loud ass guitars and no fucks given rock’n’roll, and I’m loving it.”  Fair enough Jared, and doubtless there are headbangers out there who’ll love all the foot-on-monitor, heads-down guitar bashing.  I reckon bit more wit, imagination, and consistency wouldn't go amiss though.
Jared James Nichols is released by Black Hill Records on 13 January, and can be ordered here.

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