[11 September 2008]
I love the deranged, raucous timbre of Theo Hilton’s voice, the frontman for Nana Grizol. He circles these songs like he’s shouting them down in an argument and spits out his lyrics like his thoughts just happen to naturally come out rhyming. Outside of hip-hop, where this kind breakneck lyrical agility remains a prized commodity, where can a vocalist still revel in their own cheerfully convoluted wordplay?
Hilton recalls the heyday of Jonathan Richman and early, Attractions-era Elvis Costello in his heedless vocal sprints, blasting through this brief set of richly detailed, and frequently poignant, narratives: “Less Than The Air” offers tough-love encouragement to a depressed friend (“self-deprecation is a boring hand / and you’re just brining everybody down, man!”), “Tamborine-N-Thyme” wistfully celebrates a sweetly ambivalent love (“I’m in motion to occasionally think of you / and just hope that you realize that when you sit here by my side / whatever that implies will be just fine”), “Everything You Ever Hoped or Worked For” laments the fleeting nature of friendships and relationships (“And will we ever feel that way again? / Like, we were so close / that we could live inside one another’s skin?”) while “Broken Cityscapes” is a weary municipal ode on the level of John K. Sampson (“The city’s full of bullshit / I don’t sleep there anymore / I don’t want its schmoozy eagerness / I don’t want to be its whore”).
But just as even the most impassioned vocalists and smartly written lyrics can be rendered irrelevant when married to forgettable music, Love It Love It is every bit as inspired musically as it is lyrically. An expansive ten-piece, Nana Grizol come off at times like a less polished variant on current indie darlings Los Campesinos, but the band’s rough mixture of any number of guitars, horns, strings, percussion and chimes serves, if anything, to add to the sheer giddy enthusiasm of the music. Call it twee-pop if you like, but there is nothing fey or determinedly cutesy (a Culture Club reference possibly excepted) about Nana Grizol’s joyous racket. Love It Love It is one of the year’s most delightful under-the-radar surprises.