Is John Nash the “second most bitterest man in Detroit,” as underground scuttlebutt has it, or merely a self-described “dejected psychedelic warrior” from Royal Oak prone to extended bouts with his Scott Walker albums? These are questions you’ll have to pose to Nash yourself, of course (or consult his Web site at www.alphabetband.com for clues). But judging from the recorded evidence in hand, he’s got a lot to feel good about these days. The Alphabet’s debut, originally slated to appear more than a year ago on Alan McGee’s Poptones label (until financial disaster struck the UK operation), is now in stores via Nash’s newly established Nashinal Sound Recordings. As our English friends might say, it’s a bloody corker.
Nash, whose résumé lists the Witches, Volebeats, Monster Island, Medusa Cyclone and Kim Fowley, brings a home recordist’s enthusiasm and ingenuity to the table, along with a healthy appreciation for both classic psych artists and iconic pop producers. The album kicks off quirkily enough with “Thirsty,” a slab of manic-depressive Syd Barrett-styled folk rock (key lyrics: “Looking for something fun to do/I start to lose my mind again/I guess I just can’t win/I should get away for awhile”). That out of the way, however, Nash quickly steers decisively into more upbeat territory. Highlights include the Velvet Underground-meets-Buffalo Springfield “Witches Believe Us,” the effects-drenched, Brian Wilson-goes-to-Strawberry Fields epic “When The Sun Calls Your Name” and the Arthur Lee/Love-sounding “Above The Clouds,” which perfectly closes the album in a summer’s haze of jangly guitar twang, shimmering keyboards and gossamer vocal harmonies.
Nash played most of the instruments on the album (its odd title refers to the Ghost World moniker Nash originally adopted before renaming his outfit the Alphabet). Numerous Detroit faces, including members of the Witches and Outrageous Cherry, pitched in. Since those recording sessions, Nash has assembled a fully functional Alphabet composed of bassist/vocalist Noelle Christine, Amanda Porter on keyboards and guitarist Eugene Strobe (according to the band’s Web site drummer Korky Winters is currently AWOL). The second Alphabet album, tentatively titled Open Letter To The Universe, is reportedly nearing completion. An EP of live tracks and B-sides is also imminent; Nash is also said to be planning a local compilation, Nashinal Skyline, featuring exclusive tracks from some of the Motor City’s finest psych-pop outfits such as Outrageous Cherry, the Witches, Monster Island and Slumber Party. So it’s a pretty good bet that Nash — bitter, dejected or otherwise — is enjoying the current upswing in activity and sporting a big grin.
E-mail Fred Mills at [email protected].