David Nance ‘Negative Boogie’

Eclectic and brazen, 'Negative Boogie' is blistering, noisy proto-punk as filtered through the prism of dissonant avant-rock - it's a lot to take in but it's well worth repeat listens
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There are really only two words to describe the opening track to David Nance’s sophomore album: ‘fucking’ and ‘awesome’. ‘Negative Boogie’ starts with the rudest, most in-your-face album opener this side of The Stooges’ ‘Search And Destroy’; it’s a vitriolic blast of strung-out guitars and hoarsely screamed vocals called ‘More Than Enough (Reprise)’ and it’s absolutely exhilarating. It’s also a pointed statement of intent. It’s plain to see within a minute or less of the song’s inception that David Nance has a bitter vendetta against the ears of anyone without tinnitus and he’s out to put the world to rights, one bloodied appendage at a time.

Nance’s previous work certainly hinted at the direction he’s taken with ‘Negative Boogie’. Debut LP proper, ‘More Than Enough’, had moments of raucous intensity but by-and-large it was more experimental and less hard hitting than it’s successor. Here, though, Nance both capitalises on the promise of previous efforts and moves in a confident new direction, emphasising propulsive drive and outrageously scuzzy guitar above all else. ‘Negative Boogie’ is, in essence, proto-punk for the modern age; heavy and bombastic but actually quite smart.

The stomping scuzz-glam-fuckery of the title track tackles the undeniably wide-scope issue of the discrepancy between the technology and human contact, with Nance barking “there’s no use for the human soul, it died for the digital age” to a backing of strident drums and egregious, cutting guitar. As Nance commands us to the very same negative boogie that gave the album its name, it’s hard not to to do so; there’s a certain rough-cut charisma to his gutsy delivery – somewhere between Henry Rollins and Jim Morrison – that lends his songs an assertive confidence.

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Throughout the album, Nance indulgences in a tendency to mess with expectations; surely no one would expect his rendition of a Merle Haggard tune – ‘Silver Wings’, if you’re wondering – to be played straight but at first, it does indeed seem to be relatively true to the original. The melancholic twang of the original is transcribed surprisingly faithfully, at least until the writhing, fuzz-drenched screams of the guitar solo barge in. It’s a grin-inducingly irreverent take on a genteel country favourite and indicative of broader attitude of rock ‘n’ roll exuberance on the album.

It’s not all visceral aggro and bombastic drive, though – Nance hasn’t entirely left the lo-fi avant-bedroom experiments that informed his early work behind here, as the strung-out musings and dissonant clangs of ‘DLATUMF Blues’ aptly demonstrate, the random splurge of notes that is ‘___’ likewise suggesting an artist with no intention of getting too at home with anything edging towards convention. Despite such deviations, however, ‘Negative Boogie’ is by and away the most accessible record Nance has penned so far and it’s all the better for it, the album’s more confident songwriting lending it a satisfying sense of focus.

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Although the record is no slight listen at the best part of an hour, Nance manages to keep momentum up throughout, ensuring that proceedings remain varied enough that the album never risks homogenisation. Although brazen, burnt-out rock is the order of the day here, it’s frequently tempered by a more idiosyncratic streak – see the undulating assault of ‘Trianglehead’ and the ominous, slow-burning groove of ‘River With No Color’ for proof of that – and this duality of styles colourises the album no end.

‘Negative Boogie’ is a strikingly imaginative, punchy album that stands out not only for how well realised its songs are but also for how off-beat it all is; Nance has taken a wide range of cult influences and turned them on their head, resulting in a record that doesn’t really sit in any one style, even if it nods at numerous. An unwieldy record though it may be in some respects, it’s cohesive and well crafted. ‘Negative Boogie’ confirms David Nance as an impresario of the experimental and the dividends of his ambition are obvious.