Nightingales’ Robert Lloyd is the kind of character the world needs. A character possessing qualities that continue to fade in the modern age. Quite frankly, he’s the kind of character we should all be afraid of losing.
Lloyd has never been fond of the rock star life, highlighted by the infamous run-in with The Clash manager, Bernie Rhodes who claimed to be “a patron of the arts and you’re just a bunch of amateur wankers,” in response to a spat between The Clash and Lloyd’s then band, The Prefects. (In true, humorous ‘fuck you’ fashion, years later The Prefects would release a compilation entitled Amateur Wankers.)
The milieu in which Lloyd finds the most comfort is among the ordinary folk. The spit and sawdust and true working class, and whether it be in the pub or at the racetrack, this has always been Lloyd’s natural habitat and fertile ground for the inspiration behind his songs.
This is an individual who has seemingly spent a lifetime judging people at face value. Treating others how they themselves wish to be treated. It’s a simple thing really, or so one would think. Spend some time wading through the cesspit of Twitter and its cruel extensions of venomous one-upmanship, and you’d think otherwise. In contrast, it got me thinking. People like Robert Lloyd are a dying breed.
This was further highlighted during the 2020 documentary, King Rocker. Written by long-time fan and comedian, Stewart Lee, and directed Michael Cumming (Brass Eye), King Rocker was a stunning investigation into one of Britain’s forgotten acts.
Following King Rocker, Nightingales have welcomed the kind of praise that’s been four decades in the making. Always a staple for those who like their words and sounds delivered in absurd, off-kilter ways, Nightingales, like The Fall and perhaps Half Man Half Biscuit, probably would have be deemed national treasures had they hailed from, say, France.
Alas, this is not the case, and while they have spent an existence trailing in the shadows of Mark E. Smith (fitting, given Lloyd gives it the full-on Fall treatment during the homage on Mark Meets No Mark), the time for Nightingales to bask is the sun is actually right now.
And speaking of, that’s exactly where the band decamped to record their latest record, the fantastic The Last Laugh.
Recorded in Valencia’s Elefante Studios with Jorge Bernabe, surprisingly enough, for those yet to delve into their world, The Last Laugh isn’t the worst place to start in the Nightingales canon. Mixing their countrified, mind-bending charm with new found accessibility, The Last Laugh is arguably the band’s most immediate record yet.
With the steady line-up of drummer/vocalist Fliss Kitson, guitarist Jim Smith and bassist Andreas Schmid, they provide a sturdy foundation for Lloyd to get to work.
Alongside Kitson on opening track, Sunlit Uplands (Turn that Frown Upside Down), this really is vintage Nightingales. A band truly at the top of their game, as Lloyd and Kitson dispense sharp witted pub-inspired poetry (“With my lazy eye watch the years fly by”).
It continues on the fractured droning absurdity of Frances Sokolov, a song that sees Lloyd pay homage to the leader of anarcho-punk outfit, Poison Girls, while the playful cow punk of Mind of Stone (“Something’s got a hold of my heart, a brick with a poisoned dart”) is like Tex Perkins doing karaoke.
From here you can imagine what follows. With titles like I (Heart) CCTV, Bloody Breath and Magical Left Foot, it all reads like a series of short stories authored by a twentieth century staple. In many ways, Robert Lloyd is just that, although he’d probably cringe at the suggestion.
In front of Schmid’s droning, galloping bass lines, Kitson’s splintered percussion and Smith’s playful riffs, the hits keep on coming in a way that’s presented like Captain Beefheart trying their hand at pop.
Or not. The Very Nature is like grunge and country having their wicked way in the bathroom of a roadside diner. It’s wild and, all told, Nightingales haven’t sounded so tight in years. The fun and synergy from studio to record obvious with the aforementioned ramshackle rocker, I (Heart) CCTV (“It’s the brand of your filth/That is important if you wanna get me involved”), and Bloody Breath perfect cases in point. It’s all just beautifully absurd.
Finishing with the horseback-country rockabilly of My Sweet Friend, here Lloyd echoes Glenn Campbell on the psychedelics. The kind of earworm that could have catapulted the Nightingales to some form of stardom if Lloyd was ever arsed in reaching such points (“Cold as ice, but half as nice/ Something to believe in”).
On The Las Laugh, Lloyd hasn’t lost an ounce of wit. A lifetime spent in pubs and jockey clubs, if anything it’s sharpened, as these stories become bolder and funnier the more time spent with them. That’s always the sign of a good album, and while Nightingales have given us many, The Last Laugh goes beyond a victory lap. Undoubtedly, this is a vital win for the good guys.
The Last Laugh is out Friday via Tiny Global Productions. Purchase from Bandcamp.