Monday, September 13, 2010

Bill Nelson - Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam (1981)

Bill Nelson rose to prominence in the seventies as the frontman for the British glam rock outfit Be Bop Deluxe, an excellent band in its own right that gets all too little recognition these days. After a five album run however, Nelson tired of the limits of guitar heroism and conventional rock structures. He dissolved the group and set out on his own to make music his own way.

Nelson's songwriting with Be Bop Deluxe was always quirky, but in the privacy of his home studio he quickly became much more experimental. "Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam" is his second proper full length as a solo artist (his first if you discount the previous record, technically released under the Red Noise moniker) and the sound is radically different from his earlier efforts. Nelson has fully embraced the aesthetic of post punk and new wave, while still managing to sound unique and experimental.

The songs are notable for their catchiness and their lack of guitar pyrotechnics. With Be Bop Deluxe, Nelson's guitar wizardry was the centerpiece of many a tune. Not so here, where he prefers to tinker with synthesizers and twiddle knobs as a producer/engineer. It is as a producer that he really shines, crafting dense, complex arrangements for his tunes that make for a more demanding listening experience than ordinary rock production.

Nelson's performance style has also changed a bit. He has a fondness for angular melodies that can come acoross as abrasive and his singing eschews the conventional in favor of the kind of frantic yelping often associated with new wave bands such as Talking Heads. Certain tracks are reminiscient of Berlin-era David Bowie, where others offer slightly skewed, yet charged up rock and could have been hit singles.

Bill Nelson's work as a solo artist has been all but ignored for thee decades now, despite dozens of fascinating releases. "Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam" is not the most wildly experiemental of these, but it is one of the earliest and paints a fascinating picture of the artist finding his way past the limits of a traditional rock band. The CD reissue contains seven bonus tracks culled from EPs and singles of the same era.

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