An auditory time machine
Karl Blakesley
12:27 28th October 2022

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Hello and welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Nancy. If you aren’t already familiar, then prepare yourself to be mystified and amazed in equal measure. 

Hailing from the north-east, the psych-pop provocateur created quite the buzz last year off the back of his well-received mini-album, the interestingly titled The Seven Foot Tall Post-Suicidal Feel Good Blues. That record introduced listeners to Nancy’s bizarre artistic vision, where he draws inspiration from vintage sounds of the 60s and 70s and blends them into a carnival of eccentricity. Wasting little time delivering the follow-up, English Leather is Nancy’s latest offering which sees him build on his previous effort in every way – both the good and the bewildering. 

Firstly, if you enjoyed his debut, the chances are you’ll find lots of fun here too, as Nancy turns all the charming elements of that record up to the max – it’s stranger, more psychedelic and the song craftmanship has matured immensely from its DIY-escapism infancy. Additionally, although the sounds are fantastical, the stories being told have a realness to them, jumping from tales of seedy seaside B&Bs to a few more self-assessing, introspective moments. 

The album’s opening title track kicks everything off, beginning with the sound of a tape being fast-forwarded before a blast of huge, thumping guitar riffs and whirring synths immerse the speakers. As Nancy’s vocals growl amidst the distortion, it’s difficult to make out the lyrics a lot of the time but that’s almost irrelevant, as this is ultimately the sonic blueprint for the rest of the record to follow. For example, you can just about make out a direct Bowie reference in the words here, but without a doubt the biggest nod to the Starman is in the flamboyant bombast that reverberates out of the song itself. As a greeting into the madhouse, it’s pretty much the perfect start.

'I Can’t Get Rid of You' is then equally fun and impressive, pulling a 60s pop melody in the vein of The Shangri-Las and The Ronnettes from the annals of music history and into this playful number. Recent single 'Would You Be My Judy' is then a sweet, folky track describing a move from Sunderland to Brighton, with cultural references to Judy Garland and Liberace to really help the listener be transported to the era being painted through the hazy guitars. 

However, it is around the middle section where some of the problems with the album begin to rear their head. 'Ruby' is a pleasant enough track but it just treads over previously trodden ground, marking another homage to the sounds of yesteryear without really standing out on its own. 'Moonlight' is then a similar story, where you end up spending so much time drawing comparisons in your head as to who and what the song reminds you of that before you know it, the song has finished and you’ve not really processed it. So whilst a large part of the charm of Nancy’s music comes from its familiarity and interpolations of classic pop sounds, it can also be the biggest drawback as you feel sometimes he is not quite forging his own identity as an artist. 

However despite these reservations, there’s no denying the delights that can be found in the songcraft here. 'Driftwood' features a great swaggering guitar riff and sounds like Paul McCartney fronting T-Rex, whilst 'I Hate Rock And Roll' is a two-minute full-throttle punk rattler where Nancy channels his best Iggy Pop. 'Black Choral Bells' is then one of the album’s starring moments, a bouncy upbeat melody that eventually erupts into a glorious lava of theatrical noise. That said, its arguably in the album’s softer moments where Nancy starts to find his own voice, with 'I Caught Feelings; providing the record’s most stirring moment before closer 'Sweet Like Sugarcane' brings downs the curtains with some gentle folky melancholy. 

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this record. On one hand there’s no denying Nancy’s ability to string together timeless sounding pop music that’s both weirdly warming and entertaining. It’s clear he is a very talented musician. However, I am also left feeling like I know more about Nancy’s taste in music than I do about him as a person and as an artist. Whilst he does indeed open-up on occasion here, you get the feeling he certainly still has more that he can offer. Hopefully we’ll see that going forward but for now, I’ll settle for the musical splendor offered by this magical auditory time machine.

English Leather is out now

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