Showdown 2: The '90s - The Nomads (White Jazz)
There are certainties in life. You've heard about death and taxes. There are also the Nomads. Dependable, although never safe, they're the grand daddies of Scandi Rock and their latest is a compilation to walk over shards of glass for.
"Showdown 2" is, as you might guess, the second in the series of retrospectives of a band that chalked up two decades in 2001 - not that they sound tired or anything - and it's as good a primer to their delights as you're going to find. Its predecessor showed a band soaking up influences ('60s punk and psych, NY punk, the Oz garage wave, shockabilly and cowpunk) as well as anyone. "Showdown 2" is less derivative and is the track record of a band no longer feeling their way and standing on their own merits.
The Nomads can rock as hard as any act around but there's no shortage of melody in the songs - which sets them apart from some of their latter day contemporaries. Songs in the so-called garage genre just don't come better than "The Goodbye Look", "Primordial Ooze" or "Smooth". There's a simple economy of playing and high quotient of killer hooks that does it for you every time The Nomads are proof of this sort of rock's ability to move and cleanse.
I first crossed paths with the Nomads in the early '80s, mainly by way of a handful of great singles like "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" (see "Showdown 1"). It was through boosters like Noise for Heroes editor Steve Gardner, No Mango label head Dave Champion and the Bar's own Ken Shimamoto that I did some chasing down of their discs in more recent years. A good move.
Seventeen cuts from disc one are drawn from the excellent "Sonically Speaking" (something of a peak) and "Powerstrip" albums and they won't be a revelation to anyone who's tracked the band's easier-to-find releases. After that, the going gets obscure with a string of tunes culled from the myriad singles, B sides, compilations and tributes that have borne the familiar Nomads logo.
Disc two gives you more Estrus, Sympathy and Bad Afro 45s, their roaring "Demolition Girl" from the 1+2 Saints trib and five live cuts from the 2001 Hulfredst Festival 20th anniversary show. I'm lucky enough to have this on video, but you might have to make do with imagining the images as special guests Handsome Dick Manitoba and Top Ten ("Minnesota Strip"), Jello Biafra ("Let's Lynch the Landlord"), Chris Bailey ("Stranded") and Bro Wayne Kramer ("Kick Out the Jams") join in the fun. Videos of "Can't Keep My Mind Off You" and "King of Night Train" complete a classy package.
Everyone's going to have their faves. Mine are the trio of songs I mentioned a few paragraphs back, plus some of the 7" obscurities like "She'll Always Be Mine" and "Pack of Lies". There's nothing here directly from their last two albums ("Big Sound 2000" and "Up Tight") but this IS a '90s comp and you'll want to buy them in their entirety once you hear this anyway. It doesn't get any better than this. - The Barman
Scandinavian rock? Forget the trendy Hives and Hellacopters. These guys, who burst out of sleepy Solna, Sweden an incredible 21 years ago, might just be the best pure rock band on Earth. Nick Vahlberg, Hans Ostlund and crew swallowed the entire history of rock'n'roll (well, the COOL parts, anyway - rockabilly, garage, Detroit, punk) and spit out their own unique synthesis, one characterized by non-stop high energy and big guitars.
No corny revivalists, these Nomads. They play all this stuff like they OWN it, and by doing so, convincingly make the argument that rock'n'roll is no longer the exclusive domain of Yanks and Brits. They don't even DRESS alike; rather, their collective appearance (rockabilly cat, longhair, Ramone, bearded/balding paint salesman) is as all over the map as Dallas' late Rock and Roll Disciples'.
This generous compilation (two discs! 42 tracks plus two videos!) actually picks up where their absolutely essential Showdown! (1981-1993) left off, and for my money, it's even better, simply because since '94, the Nomads (particularly bassist Bjorne Froberg) have been writing more and better songs than they did earlier on.
So, what do you get for your hard-earned entertainment dollar? Nine songs from their out-of-print Sonically Speaking album, which lotsa folks will tell you is their best. Ten from the more uneven Powerstrip (they left the clunkers off). Four from their unspeakably dynamite collection of covers of '60s and '70s Canadian bands, Cold Hard Facts of Life. A bunch from various singles and tribute albums. Five scorching live tracks from their 20th anniversary show at 2001's Hultsfred festival, with guests Ross the Boss and Handsome Dick Manitoba from the Dictators, Jello Biafra, Chris Bailey from Australia's Saints, and ex-MC5 guitar terrorist Wayne Kramer..
In sum: all killer, no filler. - Ken Shimamoto