Let’s start with the name. To paraphrase from their official Facebook bio: The Nude Party started as a band playing house parties at North Carolina’s Appalachian State University. The band would jam and hang out with friends at their lake house, and frequently nudity was involved. They also regularly played in town at a party spot called the 505 House and the nudity continued at those gigs, often for the audience as well. When they got good enough to start playing actual bars and clubs, they officially named themselves the Nude Party (an easy identifier to the college kids of Boone, North Carolina), even though they essentially couldn’t play naked anymore at that point.
It’s been nearly five years since then, and the band is releasing their self-titled debut album. So they’re affectionately sticking with the awkward yet striking band name and presumably hoping their potential audience will look past the name to listen to their music. And that’s exactly what that potential audience should do, because The Nude Party is a really strong debut album.
The sextet makes simple songs heavily influenced by mid- to late ’60s classic rock, with nods to country and its oft-forgotten partner, western. The great first single, the twangy, honky-tonk piano-infused “Chevrolet Van”, is a good introduction to the band. Lead vocalist Patton Magee speak-sings “I got some free advice / Just the other day / From an old relative of mine”, and goes on to describe the older man’s intended to be helpful naysaying. Magee’s disdain comes through both in his tone of voice and his word choice; “free advice” is particularly descriptive. The chorus sums up the advice. “You’ll never make enough money / And no one cares about the things you say / You’re gonna wake up someday / Man, you’ll wish you got a job.” Incidentally, the title of the song rang somehow false to me, so it’s worth noting that the band just thought “Chevrolet” sounded better to sing. Like most low to mid-level touring bands in North America, the Nude Party actually uses a Ford Econoline van.
The honky-tonk piano also shows up on the sneakily post-apocalyptic “Feels Alright”. Keyboardist Don Merrill pounds away on eighth notes while the band plays a joyful proto-Southern rock song with the simple chorus, “Whoa, it don’t look good / But it feels alright.” But the easy-to-ignore verses find Magee describing nuclear breezes, not being able to breathe outside, and nuclear winter-induced temperatures of -10 degrees. It’s an interesting and effective juxtaposition.
That’s it for piano on the album, though. For the record’s other nine tracks, Merrill sticks to the organ, which only adds to the band’s ’60s rock feel. Some have affixed the Nude Party with the psych-rock label, which I find inaccurate, except for two notable exceptions. Opening song “Water on Mars” is a straightforward classic rock song. Two chiming guitars, simple drums, walking bass, and the organ lock in for three and a half minutes. But Magee’s lyrics tackle the surreality of dreams, ending the chorus with, “My mind’s a spigot and I’m starting to dig it.” Then there’s “Astral Man”, where the band gets spacey for five and a half minutes. It’s the only song on the album where the Nude Party stretches beyond its typical compact songwriting. Once the singing ends at the three-minute mark, the band picks up the tempo and jams out the final two minutes of the songs.
“War Is Coming” finds a midpoint between the Doors and Creedence Clearwater Revival with jangling guitars, omnipresent organ, and impassioned vocals. “Live Like Me” is a boogie-woogie track with a snarly guitar part and an organ riff on the chorus that echoes the iconic organ part from ? and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears”. The band dips its toe back into country with the laid-back “Records”, which features prominent slide guitar and the music nerd chorus, “I don’t need your love / I just need my records.”
Near the end of the album, the band takes a genre left turn for a trio of distinctly southwestern flavored songs. “Gringo Che” tells a fractured version of the life of Che Guevara over a swirling guitar riff, with swaggering vocals and a heck of a closing guitar solo that ends a bit too quickly. “Wild Coyote” may be the album’s most atmospheric song, with Austin Brose’s percussion flourishes and Shaun Couture’s reverbed, echoing guitar leads enhancing Magee’s story of a Texas coyote smuggling people across the border. The record wraps up with the instrumental “Charlie’s Sheep”, another western-style track featuring strong guitar work from Couture and Magee. The band makes an interesting arrangement choice near the song’s end, where Brose comes in in the background on a snare drum with the snares turned off, playing a quick, martial rhythm. It’s an unusual sound for a rock band, and it really grabs the ear once you know to listen for it.
The Nude Party isn’t going to blow any minds with its uniqueness. Their classic rock influences are all well-trod territory, but their songwriting is very good and they vary their ’60s touchstones just enough to make the album lively and fun. Even though they keep the song structures very simple, the band members throw in a lot of subtle, interesting touches. For example, the band ostensibly has two guitarists, but “Chevrolet Van” includes four or five distinct guitar parts. These touches make the album rewarding on multiple plays, as listeners can pick up on details that aren’t immediately apparent. That attention to detail bodes well creatively for the future of the Nude Party.