Nirvana (UK): Local Anaesthetic, Songs Of Love And Praise
Released 26th May 2017
First time reissues for both these late-period albums by the British 60s version of Nirvana…..LTW’s Ian Canty views two contrasting pieces from Patrick Campbell Lyons’ catalogue, both very influenced by the man’s highs and lows……
To be honest it feels a bit wrong having to type (UK) after this Nirvana. Okay so Cobain and Co were much more famous on a grander scale, I’ll admit. But putting aside that band’s undoubted talents for a moment, Patrick Campbell Lyons and his sometime partner in crime Alex Spyropoulous had the name far in advance. Formed way back in 1965 they even managed some chart action themselves with “Rainbow Chaser” (a re-recording of which opens Songs Of Love And Praise). The duo had employed many musicians along the way who came and went but the biggest change came just prior to the recording of Local Anaesthetic when Spyropoulous decided to leave Campbell-Lyons with the name in an amicable split.
Less amicable for Campbell Lyons was that his marriage had failed around the same time and the result of this, which he admits in the sleeve note to this reissue, contributed to his bleak mind-set that was definitely reflected on the album. This Nirvana record, two side long tracks, can best be described as “of its time” in its construct as in 1971 it was all the rage for Prog bands to do this sort of thing. But actually, like a lot of those epic tracks, both Modus Operandi and Home are practically just a load of shorter songs stuck together. Since Campbell Lyons always had a finely tuned ear for Pop, most of it is pretty catchy too. In fact the two best “songs” Saddest Day Of My Life and I Wanna Go Home were broken away from their parent track and released as a single (these are the two bonus items added to this reissue). Though obviously downbeat in their world-view both of these songs are really nice, kind of Beatles/Lennon style piano ballads with a little bit of Blues influence too. Sad, but not hard work at all.
I sometimes look at albums that only contain two “songs” before listening with a deep sense of trepidation, but to Nirvana’s credit they do manage to hold interest for the extended playing time. Modus Operandi contrives over a ten minute-plus playing time to dip its toe in Country, Folk, Rolling Stones-style Rock and “found” Spoken Word. That is all after having kicked things off with a nice Jazzy bit of Hammond/Sax that segues suddenly into harrowing tears, bringing into full focus the despondency of the man behind it. The second track Home, with the two single extracts mentioned above probably being the picks, also has the sorrowful but touching Home Is Where The Heart Is. Perhaps Home is not quite as eclectic as Modus being mostly Poppy Blues Rock, but arguably more satisfying.
When Local Anaesthetic floundered Campbell-Lyons, in a much happier place mentally, went back to his pop roots a year later with the follow up Songs Of Love And Praise. The inside sleeve declared “Nirvana has never been a group, band or solo artist: it is simply a centre-point for various musical journeys I embark on”. Though sonically nothing like each other, this seems a very similar approach to the one Johnny Lydon took to PIL post 1983. Anyway what we have here is a fine selection of stately early 70s Pop, there’s some Psych influence in there but nothing really “out there”. It wasn’t their style at all to mind-melt, just to supply good catchy songs and here they deliver.
Which is not to say they didn’t have the odd surprise up their sleeve. For instance, She’s Lost It either by accident or design has a definitely Velvet Underground-style rhythm guitar and cello chug and after quiet sections finishes with a real flourish. The remake of Pentecostal Hotel is a nice piece of pop-sike reaching again way back to their “Story Of Simon Simopath” 60s days and the drama and military trappings of Stadium feed into a long but sparky instrumental passage with some really nice Jazz piano playing at the forefront. The two bonus tracks here are both instrumental b-sides, one recorded under the pseudonym of Pica called Ad Lib, a much more Rock ‘n’ Roll offering than anything on the LP and Lazy Day Drift which has a very pleasing trumpet line.
Though these albums find Nirvana at the tail end of their career (though they did reform in the 80s) they still, even at this point, had a winning way with melody. Despite the fashionable trappings of Local Anaesthetic it’s still full of the things Campbell Lyons always did well. Yes perhaps it is a curio in their discography, but a nice one. Songs Of Love And Praise however is a fine and uplifting pop record, it’s a real shame it wasn’t a success. Sad there was no follow up too, as it was Nirvana’s swansong, for a time anyway. Songs Of Love And Praise makes for a good introduction to the band and if this whets one’s appetite try Local Anaesthetic too, as although it is a bit more “difficult” there is plenty to enjoy for the more adventurous listener.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here