Sunday 30 December 2012

39th And The Nortons - On Trial

Album review by

It's not just the cassette artwork you can see above (it comes as a pea-green tape with hand-stitched sleeve... or download) that give this album by 39th And The Nortons the feel of a relic. In fact the sounds contained therein predate the common use of home cassettes. The latest project from Sheffield-born, Paris-based musician Nick Wheeldon (formerly of The Creep Outs and The Jesus Loves Heroin), 'On Trial' is like discovering a long-lost crate of 45s hidden in the loft of a closed-down record store, probably somewhere in America. These dusty gems sound as though they were both written and recorded in a bygone era when you were lucky if you got four-track and more than a couple of takes.

A list of influences and comparisons could be endless, but if you think Nuggets combined with some country recordings that were shelved for no apparent reason then you're roughly in the right area. If Gram Parsons needed a blueprint for his 'Cosmic American Music' then here it is, forty years later, on songs like 'I Won't Hurt You' and 'Itching + Scratching'. There's even more of a Western swing on 'Without Regret'. As these bands felt the influence of the beat explosion and the prominence of Bob Dylan pushing the genre further forward they'd go on to make songs with the same genes (particularly Gene Clark - pun intended) as 'Carefree' and 'On Trial'.

The overriding sound to 'On Trial' is taken from the garage scenes that sprung up on both coasts of the US in the mid 1960s. 'Don't Look Back' (not a cover) and 'One Mistake' are the stuff Lenny Kaye's dreams were made of and sound as authentic as those original artifacts. There's a light dusting of psychedelia over this album, with 'On The Run' and 'I Can't Do That' being particularly good examples. 'Disconnected' has the glimmer of punk in its eye although it remains routed in the previous decade. Everything here might be imitation, but because it's far less one-dimensional than so many other bands trying to achieve a similar thing, 'On Trial' stands out as one of the best psych/garage albums of recent times.

39th And The Nortons' website

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