Houdini Dax’s debut album, the irresistible You Belong to Dax Darling, was a thrilling kaleidoscope of harmonious 1960s pop, semi-skimmed psychedelic and art school rock that, all things being equal, should have made teenagers names. relatives in the Principality. Even though the album failed to make its mark, crippling the group’s career in the process, the power-pop trio still seemed like a safe bet to fully realize their ‘most likely band’ ambitions. No one, back then, could have imagined the trials and tribulations the group would have to overcome just to set foot in the recording studio again!
After four years of endless performances, imaginative fundraising (playing Christmas Eve concerts at fans’ homes) and later emergency street playing (the boys had £ 10,000 worth of gear stolen from the part back of his truck in March), the gang has finally completed their herculean task. However, you have to ask the $ 64,000 question; Was it worth all the backbreaking work, all the pain and disappointment, all the turns at the windmills along the way?
The opening song “Apple Tree”, one of the hottest singles of the summer, is great evidence that Houdini Dax is still a very special band. A dizzying, effervescent number, as slick and shallow as a Preston Sturges script, would have been triple platinum in the hands of Marc Bolan or XTC. Sometimes timing is everything! Next up is “Legs,” a pop song that showcases the band’s elegant rhythm section: Owen Richards (bass) and David Newington (drums), as well as the scathing lyrics of singer Jack Butler.
‘She’s my purple power ranger, she’s my Lara Croft / She’s my Cameron Diaz before Botox / She’s my Easter bunny, she’s my Christmas elf / She’s the worst magazine on the top shelf.’
Butler’s gloomy kitchen sink vignettes are often leavened with a dash of black humor, putting him somewhere between Chris Difford and Alex Turner on the spectrum of British composition. In fact, “Found Love at the Dole Office” (based on a young couple who witnessed getting too close to be comfortable at the job board) is as comically poignant as anything Squeeze or the Arctic Monkeys have recorded.
‘I went to the Old Arcade / To break a coin and drink a lemonade / I saw a girl who didn’t understand / She was too pretty for her own good / I found love in Dole’s office / I couldn’t get a job, but they gave me a kiss ‘.
It’s a pretty piece of observation, a trick Butler repeats in the colorful character study “Good Old-Fashioned Maniac” about a drug-damaged entrepreneur who loses control of life.
“I have more to get up and go than the Antiques Roadshow / Travel from Tiger Bay to southern Bordeaux / Take five steps forward and five steps back / because he’s a good old-fashioned maniac.”
The drenched harmony of “Let’s Stick Together” is monstrously catchy, as is the throaty “Get Your Goo On.” For a long time, the centerpiece of the band’s live show, thanks to its Mickey Spillane mallet riff, loses nothing in the transition to a studio setting. Any momentum lost with the somewhat laborious “All These Days” is quickly recovered with the wonderful instrumental “Crack Dance”. If ever ‘International Man of Mystery’ Austin Powers’ retires from his retirement home in search of overdressed secret agents, this could be his new theme song! The thunderous “Roll on Up” has the compulsively addictive chorus we had come to expect from the band, however the title track proves to be somewhat slow recording, meaning the album ends on a fairly low key.
The curious omission of “Our Boy Billy” and “Struggling in the Sand” means that the second half of the album wanes slightly. However, for the most part it is a spectacular comeback, possibly from the best guitar band in the British Isles. Naughty Nation is an absolute pleasure, more fun than playing with your shiny new Scalextric on Christmas morning!