Nahko “My Name Is Bear” (SideOneDummy Records, 2017)

The bearable parts of this record are rendered unbearable by the spoken word interludes that are snippets of (a lack of) insight usually centred on smoking weed and trivia from his life as a touring musician that I wish I’d not had to hear. Nahko – formerly of Medicine for the People – sounds at times like the Avett Brothers (who themselves are moving ever nearer the insufferable). Nahko has already completed that journey for them. Creation’s Daughter concludes the case for the prosecution in any plagiarism case. Dragonfly the lead single is Avett-lite crossed with Disney movie. Same with Goodnight, Sun: it is sub-sixth-form poetry, now I’m aware that a lot of these songs were written between the ages of 18 and 21 but you have to be able to censor and edit yourself.

Kirby, Joe mixes in some brass and woodwind – it sounds pretty enough but also frivolous; Susanna plays with the old traditional folk song but doesn’t really bring anything worth keeping. Call Him By His Name sneaks in some African influences but it all sounds like Trustafarian dabbling rather than something that’s really been thought through, and this is surprising given that he had a difficult life and has had some real issues to work through. Early February moves into a brash electric-rock with some Blaxploitation horns and again it sounds like a diversion rather than something that has been thought through.

Despite some elegant melodies and an obvious musical talent, Nahko doesn’t convince. There’s nothing here that is deserving of further inspection, and I’ve tried.  It would seem that his spiritual awakening has compromised his creativity.

Author: David Cowling

Punk rock, Go-Betweens, REM, Replacments, Husker Du, Minutemen, Will Oldham, Smog, Whiskeytown, Ass Ponys but probably most of all Howe Gelb, led me on this journey.

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