The Nightlines Sessions

Review by Rusty W. Spell

I must admit that by the time this release rolled around, my musical tastes had changed a bit. Since 1995, soon after the Rheostatics actually exploded the door for me, this dirtyish (maybe American?) indie rock started seeping into my bloodstream and by 1997 I simply didn't listen to the Rheostatics as much. Still liked them, still put them in my top ten, all that--but, gosh, we got Modest Mouse and The Halo Benders and Pavement and Neutral Milk Hotel and I can't ignore that.

I had a copy of this album before it came out, on tape, from the actual radio session, but/and it took me a few years before I bought the real thing for myself. I knew something was up when a Rheos release was floating around I didn't actually have. I was drifting away from R.E.M., too, and they and the Rheos were my top two. It sounds, right now, like I'm building up to some point, some "but then this happened and I was back to normal again," but I'm not going to say that. I'm just saying that my musical preferences changed quite a bit... which only means that the Rheostatics are still fantastic for still hanging on, for still being way up there, even if not at the very top.

Of course, every time I pop in one of their records, I say to myself, "Why am I not listening to this all the time?"

So The Nightlines Sessions. I finally got a hold of it when The Story of Harmelodia came out. Its release got me forcing myself to get kickin' on getting the stuff I missed, updating my page, etc. etc. I always liked The Nightlines Sessions, though it was weird, funny, good, something like I might like to make (or have attempted to make), something scattered yet connected. Glad I got the real CD so I can see Martin's increasingly more complex photo manipulations anytime I want. And who else in rock and roll dresses as well as they're dressed in that picture on the inside? Robert Palmer?

"The Pooby Song" is cute, gets me dancing. I really like the line "Infinity's a great big lady." I was really impressed with "The Junction Foil Ball" the first time I heard it because the chord progression was freaky and it surprised me. Dug it. "Frank": Is it "Horses 3"? Sure it is ("Feed Yourself" was 2), which is fine. "Henry's Musical Beard" is funny. "Majorca" is pretty, makes me think of really old Rheos... which gets me wondering how this "session" was really done. It's obviously from different times, right? Not one night. There's no explanation in liner notes like I thought there would be. I'm assuming this is "best of" clips from the times they came on the shows through the years? I dunno. Anyway, it sounds like that, and if it's not, then they did a good job of tricking me.

The line in "Ugly Manhattan" that says "because I saw a movie and thought I was in it" makes me think of Martin watching Whale Music thinking he's going to pop up, but he only does in the music. I don't know if that's really what the line is about. "Trans Jam" is some good rap in a world of bad rap. The only other Canadian rapper I've heard is Tom Green and his MC Face. It actually kind of sounded like Farm Fresh to me.

"Alien Boy," funny. "Baby, I Love You," more than funny: hilarious. I really love this song, maybe my favorite one from the album. It's so horribly over-the-top that you're cringing and laughing, and yet the music is still so good that you love it anyway for reasons other than just parody. I'm so goddamn fuckin' in love with this song. (The Paul McCartney reference doesn't hurt, either.)

Three funnies in a row? Yes. "This Is Nightlines" gets me giggling, too, especially the bit about "Sammy Hagar and his new fucking direction" (I know the frustration of hearing this kind of thing so well), the Jars of Clay being the next Pixies, and of course the all-out frustration of the "deep... fuckin'... hole... shit!" line. (I'm having to curse a lot in this review.)

"Stolen Car" is, as it was in Double Live, beautiful--and differently beautiful because of the drum machine. Perfect little drum machine, adorable little drum machine. Suggestions for future recordings? More cutesy drum machines.

"Don't Say Goodnight" was a pleasant ending, of course. Good way to go out.

I've heard some Rheos fans don't like this album, but I do, in spite of everything. Or because of everything, maybe. Maybe this fits the new me. If you don't like it, note this observation from a wise woman on the mailing list who said, "This album is good to listen to when you're washing dishes. And if you don't believe me, try it."

Copyright (c) Jan 2000 - Apr 2005 by The USA Rheostatics Page