What strikes me about Paris-based psych surf rockers Os Noctambulos is just how small a band they are. They’re on a tasteful yet tiny independent label, they’re playing 100-cap venues in London, and have very few social media followers. Meaning they’re on a desert island in contrast to the following equally strong retro revivalists Night Beats, and many other Heavenly Records signees, who’ve helped bring back the bob, sideburns, the polo neck have. It’s not like their 2014 debut album was bad – it’s bizarre how they’ve not caught on.
Nevertheless, hopefully Stranger will change all this and it will start a surge of interest in the band. It’s stronger than their very good debut for one. On the debut, English-born singer Nick Wheeldon, previously of Sheffield-based The Jesus Loves Heroin Band, was more in the passenger seat, as the surf rock / Shadows-esque guitar were the main intrigue. On Stranger the singer seems more confident in terms of expression, and it’s easier to pick out a good song..
My favourites include opener 'Changes', on which the reverb-soaked vox nod to Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Pol Pot's Pleasure Penthouse and it also has that loose, trance-like feel. Also, second track ‘Not Everyone’ conjures up memories of listening to The Coral’s more abstract moments, and has a heart-on-sleeve rawness that only a singer who’s battling his demons and getting over it through dripping sweat into his microphone would manage.
Intriguingly, the cut ‘Medication’, on which the words "I don’t want your medication" ring out, indicate it may be something that creeps into the band from time to time. Looking back to Wheeldon’s previous band , he had a song called ‘Tired Of Being In Control’, so although I know very little of his history, it seems genuine emotional fragility could play into a lot of the music.
Elsewhere, ‘The Circle Ain’t Broken’ is another raw rock delight, reminiscent of feral garage punk of The Orwells on one hand whilst keeping the trademark Os Noctambulos revivalist sound on another.
As a whole, despite some dark themes, the record isn’t impenetrable to the masses who want to stay happy. People who want some upbeat revivalist psych/garage surf/ will be able to shake their hips and pretend that the internet doesn't exists. This is about as intimately connected to the Sixties as anything else new you'll hear this week.
7Cai Trefor's Score