Nat Johnson & the Figureheads – Roman Radio
The skinny: Skate, rattle and roll, you dirty rotten souls!
The review proper: Deceptively urgent. That’s the “pretentious lazy journo” term I’ll be using on this one. Sure, it’s mostly acoustic and in the pop side of the spectrum, but Roman Radio rocks. Maybe not so obviously on the sound side (although distortion is not a requisite for rock), but sure does on the lyrics front.
Something that can be expected from a musician that once made a song called ‘Sheffield Shanty’, name dropping Broomhill (second best place in Sheffield, imho) and made a reference to Paul Simon’s ‘Call me Al’. Sometimes feels lyrics are the ugly duckling of artists and attention to lyrics is always something that completes the package.
‘January’ and ‘Truth’ have pretty good lyrics. ‘January’ is introspective (“Here we are – end of the bottle, end of the barrel, end of the night”) and confrontational (“So what the hell do you think I am? some kind of strong man?”). The music grows at the same rate that the emotions do. The voice delivery is rather excellent too. Can’t take a sports car through a pebble beach, you need a proper road (this analogy makes no sense and I’ll get fired for this).
‘Truth song’, ah, the other confrontational song in the album (there might be more, but let’s keep them a well kept secret!) “I think I’m the only who loves but don’t lose”. They be fighting words. “So, tell me what’s so great about truth”. Again, the music might be friendly to the ear but the strongest part of this debut album is definitely the lyrics.
Which shouldn’t mean the music ain’t good, no sireebob. The snare drum does get a good bit of working in quite a few songs, adding an extra urgency in the dreamy ‘Wasted’ and a good old fashioned rock beat for ‘Wonderful emergency’. Heck, the constant war-like snare beat on ‘All this’ makes it a perfect album closer (check them fireworks, youse people!)
Mixing a peppy beat with great lyrics is the racy (but funny) ‘Dirty Rotten Soul’, the joyful, lovable tune about roller skates, the sexual prowess of Volvos (!) and cool snare beat. The video is a hoot, too, with a cameo appearance of Smokers die younger‘s Amy Dutronc.
Roman Radio combines moments of all out rockyness with some very sweet introspective, calm acoustic songs. These changes in rhythm are just a diversion as the power of lyrics stays on top gear in all songs.
Videos (hey, I know that shop!)
Dirty Rotten Soul (funny!)
Wasted (simple but classy)
PS: (SOAPBOX ALERT) Still wonder what were all those accusations of being “twee”. Maybe some reviewers see a girl with a guitar and automatically think it’s “twee”? Intercourse that shit. (/SOAPBOX).