Right now indie rock is about as fashionable as a Razorlight press photo. Muse just pissed everyone off with their faint attempt at dubstepping their way out of a rock corner with their latest single. They’d gotten away with oversized grandeur up to this point, but the recent album teaser was the perfect example of how to disappear up your own black hole. As you know, we operate in the world of emerging music, so when you hold up successful indie rock bands of the recent past, such as the Arctic Monkeys, Kings Of Leon or Kasabian against the cutting edge artists, such as Purity Ring, Grimes,Savages or Angel Haze there’s a sense that the older giants have lost their exciting fizz. They just don’t sound like the future any more. Or if you check Razorlight‘s recent press photographs then they don’t ‘look’ like the future either. Today we recommend to you a band that can comfortably be placed upon the indie rock shelf, but this is a shelf with a lot of life still in it.
Nife are a three-piece band, originally from the ancient West Country city of Bath, with one of the trio apparently from Austria, but they’re now calling London home as they set up camp and attempt to buck the trend that’s currently raging against indie rock bands. Their camp seems to have been doing a pretty good job too, as a series of packed gigs have lead to them not only earning blog inches on the likes of Cougar Microbes and Alt Sounds, but they’ve also attracted the attention of producer Tim Oliver (Happy Mondays,New Order), who not only jumped into the studio with them for their debut album (apparently recorded in Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios) but he has also become a mentor to the band. You can hear why when you witness the extraordinary talent that fronts them. Nicky surely has to go down as one of the most exciting females in music today, with not only one talent but two. Firstly she sings, and we mean really really sings, properly belting out vocals that shake the room, maintaining a clean tone whilst raising the volume up and up. Secondly she jams lead guitar in the kind of constant riffing that makes each song seem like one long solo.
Those of you who might remember what Noel did to the Oasis song, Columbia, or howLenny Kravitz used to merrily fuck along the fret board, will hear lots of similar guitar-led power and talent with Nife. Their debut album, Chemicals, is due out on August 13th onIndependent Records Ltd, and the nine songs play out like one long consistently bright jam. Remember that stonking riff in The Riverboat Song by Ocean Colour Scene? Imagine 45 minutes of that. That’s not to say that it doesn’t ebb and flow as the stream of music hits the bends in the album, with songs like Happy Birthday and Dregs applying the occasional brake to the otherwise racing set of hooks. This is a melodically accessible rock album in the old fashioned sense, taking you on a confident ride, with the kind of timeless, soaring guitar music that we used to get with albums such as Pearl Jam‘s addictive debut, Ten. Now that shouldn’t work in 2012, but believe us it does, this is an album with such a strong sense of classic that they could have found a more appropriate title if they’d called it Eleven.
The first single to arrive from the trio shares the same title, Chemicals, and is due out on July 30th. From the outset you realise this is a three-piece truly plugged into each other as the jagged guitar stabs and up-tempo off-beats land like raindrops on sand behind Nicky’s sky-high vocals. As she reaches that central mantra with the phrase “cut me loose” the purity in her voice adorns the kind of empowered stance that towers over the song. Just as in her lead guitaring, she knows precisely when to tweak a line, giving inflections that stop it from being delivered too straight. It’s utterly astonishing and the perfect introductory single. Elsewhere on the album she remains the dominatrix, always in charge, especially on tracks like Silence, which she uses to cut you in half by holding the song entirely alone at 2 mins and 45 secs in, before the hurricane riffs collapse back on top of you. Imagine Halle Berry as the character Storm in the X-Men making pop music. You. Do. Not. Fuck. Around. Listen to Nicky confidently call at you during Slow Motion Accident, “because I’m forever and you’re so temporary” and you’ll know exactly what we mean.
Having had the power of lo-fi, dubstep, pop and alternative music dominating the underground scenes in recent years this is the perfect act to re-introduce you to the guitar. It’s an instrument that’s been on an extended vacation for some time, perhaps mostly down to the Internet and Ableton which allow a new kind of bedroom production that simply wasn’t available ten years ago. We have nothing against this new proving ground, as it enables an individual to generate electronic music in a freedom that can only help talent to rise. We probably wouldn’t have had the likes of Grimes without it, but Nife give us a powerful reminder that instruments and talent can shine when the reigns are harnessed this exquisitely. We imagine their live sets are knock out too, as Nicky admits to regularly “going off on one“. They’re playing a series of shows across North London in August, so check your local listings if you’re around that area. We will certainly be in the crowd, ready for her to slap us around the face with her guitar. The real slap with this music is how it is still likeable in the face of the adversity shown to most current guitar bands. It not only shows how good their song-writing is, but it tells us that when you nail indie rock this perfectly you actually transcend current fashions.
Written by Mike Bradford