Music

Nap Eyes' New Album 'I'm Bad Now' Takes a Deep Look at Life

Photo: Matthew Parri Thomas (Paradise of Bachelors)

Nap Eyes are more brain than brawn, more thinkers than thumpers. All this makes the title of Nap Eyes' newest record, I'm Bad Now, an interesting choice.

I'm Bad Now
Nap Eyes

Paradise of Bachelors

9 March 2018

Nigel Chapman, the singer and the principal songwriter of Nap Eyes, is probably one of the nicest people you could ever meet. In his interviews he looks at his feet often and stutters a bunch, seemingly searching for the right words just to please the interviewer. Nap Eyes' last effort, Thought Rock Fish Scale, even started with these words: "The mixer on a Friday night; some pretty girls and guys are here, but I look at myself on the right, and I'm wondering if I'm even here." Check the name of the band as well: it evokes quite the chill feeling. Chapman is more brain than brawn, more of a thinker than a thumper. All this makes the title of Nap Eyes' newest record, I'm Bad Now, an interesting choice for such a seemingly polite group.

Nap Eyes are still a fairly new group, so they are still developing quite dramatically with each subsequent release. Overall though, the group has a calling card, and that would be boxed-in rock rhythms similar to the Velvet Underground, the Feelies, or the Strokes. Their debut, Whine of the Mystics, was more of a rave-up, often taking the faster, more aggressive side of their style, even closing out with a seven-minute motoric-driven chugger called, "No Fear of Hellfire". Their follow-up, Thought Rock Fish Scale, slowed it all down, throwing more focus on the nasally-spoken and meandering thoughts of Chapman. It was critically loved, but can be a bit of a snooze if slow strums and languid grooves don't excite your pleasure centers.

I'm Bad Now finds Nap Eyes somewhere in between their two former releases. The album starts out seering with "Everytime the Feeling" evoking annoyance and clenched teeth with aggressively down-strummed chords and Chapman nearly spitting his words at us. "I'm Bad" continues the same trajectory but goes one step further: Chapman calls the song's subject 'dumb' and abruptly follows it up with a dual guitar solo seriously reminiscent of Zuma-era Neil Young and Crazy Horse. It's quite the kick in the pants coming from a band named after feeling sleepy. There's a few more aggressive tracks, but mostly the album relaxes dramatically after the first third, all the way to the closing track, "Boats Appear", being just a few acoustic guitars and Chapman speak-singing like Lou Reed on "Pale Blue Eyes".

Lyrically, the album stays center on Chapman's former approach: seemingly stream-of-thought meanders about life and the like. "Roses" finds him charging through a heavy groove, wondering about what one should do with unwanted roses: "You're always trying to be nice, but is it really the right way?" "Dull Me Line" finds a Stephen Malkmus-channeling Chapman targeting himself and internally discussing how to deal with it: "You don't even smile, even if it feels natural." The rest of the album offers similar thought pieces. "Life is awkward, but let's figure it out, I guess," Chapman seems to be saying.

All this brings us back to the title, I'm Bad Now. It's hard to find the through line to 'bad' when the lyrics are so polite and thoughtful, as in "Sage" when Chapman says, "If you play guitar like me into the wind, you might now always know where to begin, but you would also know something to calm your nerves…" So, the album title must be Chapman's way of pointing out the uselessness of the good/bad dichotomy. After all, no one is truly bad, and no one is truly good: It's all about the details, and well, that's what Chapman is all about: details, not designations. Nap Eyes is just trying to be nice about it.

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