Nixon's Head: It's got backbeat, you can't lose it.

Nixon's Head

Philly beat combo Nixon's Head professes no interest in Britney Spears' abs, has no stake in the future of Napster, and doesn't seem very inclined to update the résumé by switching to Clinton's Head. The six-piece does, however, state clearly for the record (in its bio), "It's never been a secret that we love Nuggets-style pop and Stiff-era punk." To that end, these veteran East Coasters reaffirm their retrodelic roots with 15 garagey/New Wavey three-and-a-half-minutes-and-under gems.

Such tuneage, of course, defies furrowed-brow dissection. To paraphrase Lulu in "To Sir With Love," how do you describe someone who can take you from a whisper to a swoon? Still, the Cliff's Notes version would include: a pair of economical guitarists equally at home with chordal whomp and more serpentine, surfy leads; a persistent Farfisa organ offering a warm, reassuring vibe; one charismatic lead singer and two equally tuneful harmonists (including the gal organist, who takes lead on occasion); and buoyant, infectious musical arrangements that hew to the rock 'n' roll "backbeat: you can't lose it" prime directive. Dig the old-school R&B-flavored pop of Elvis Costello and the Attractions? "It's a Beautiful Thing" and "Home Court Advantage" could pass for This Year's Model or Armed Forces outtakes. Miss the skinny ties and girl-on-pedestal worship of the power-pop era? "A Date With Judy" is so fresh-faced and innocent you'd swear that ratty flannel shirts and grungy hair were just bad fashion dreams. Pondering whether to be a Clash city rocker while you're making all those plans for Nigel? The brainy punkitude of "Intellectual Rescue" ensures that SAT scores skyrocket whenever it's playing. Hungry for some vintage L.A.-style twang 'n' jangle? "I'm Green" puts you front and center for a Whisky-A-Go-Go double bill featuring Love and the Buffalo Springfield.

As it turns out, this is the combo's second "comeback" of sorts; following a long layoff, three of the members assembled the '98 album Gourmet, inviting friends into the studio to flesh out the instrumental roster. Recent months, however, saw the return of the original drummer, and after two former Rolling Hayseeds signed on as permanent players, NH Mk. III was born; Take It! is the inspired end result. Somewhere, someday, in a Cavestomp or Las Vegas Grind fest of the future, Nixon's Head will be the headliner that graying garage fans return home to maniacally enthuse over in chat rooms across the land. Meanwhile, the band's got the now sound -- shoot, make that the wow sound! -- down cold. Get behind the band before it gets past you.


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