Amen is the first release since US rockers Bag of Nickels returned from a recent hiatus and an encounter to work neck muscles and hips. Creating an indie rock sound with a penchant for infectious hooks and rousing vocals, the Wilmington, Delaware bred band is not stretching boundaries with their new offering but it is certainly a release to light the day and heart.
Coming together in 1995, the life of Bag of Nickels has seen several breaks as its members worked on side and solo projects and to defuse the effect of “the grind of playing shows, working 9-5s, and inner turmoil.” The band’s previous albums, Soul Change and Mantequilla, coincided with potent local success and the earning of a strong live reputation which in time has seen the band venture into North Carolina and play several shows in New York.
Amen suggests a band returning from a break re-energised and with intent and the energy to stir up ears and bodies. Produced by Dennis Prado and co-produced and mixed with Grammy-award winning engineer Mike Tarsia, the album immediately gets to work with Hold Your Form. Riffs and whining guitars instantly grip ears as rhythms beat out a captivating lure. The bass is a great throaty element too, its dark grooves contrasting perfectly with the infectious vocal delivery and throbbing nature of the song. It is a great start to Amen quickly engaging body and appetite as familiar yet fresh hues escape the band.
The following Impurities wears more hard rock like essences with its less urgent but as rhythmically empowered character. Again guitars weave a web of enticement combining whining grooves and spicy melodies for two minutes of nothing less than highly enjoyable fun before making way for the Mike Tarsia Remix of Trapper Keeper. Without matching the snappy nature of its predecessors, the song slips easily through ears into an already keenly waiting appetite to hear what is next within Amen, pleasing with every second as the variety across the album blossoms and continues with the equally satisfying funk seeded and blues lined heart of The Set Up.
The rawer rock ‘n’ roll of Liquidation Sale forges a new peak within the album, its feistier melodies and rhythmic incitement compelling as again vocals impress and draw greater listener involvement while rhythms entice feet to share their energy. More potent with every listen it still finds itself in the shadow of the excellent Speedball, a slice of fiery rock ‘n’ roll with hungry riffs and swinging beats not forgetting another juicily heavy and flirtatious bassline. There is a whiff of Foo Fighters meets The John Baker Trio to the track but as throughout the album any familiar essences collude with the band’s own invention and for the main are not so easy to pin them down.
The gentler hug of the album’s title track is next, guitars and harmonies a warm breeze across the evocative textures of bass and drums, vocals again drawing the imagination with their expression and words. The song is an enthralling encounter, another highlight with a volatility which sparks and erupts to fine effect across the album’s most exciting time, a success which continues to its close.
Amen is concluded by firstly the exotically hued Refrain, another mesmeric and rousing piece of melodic incitement matching the might and imagination of the previous song, and lastly with the bewitching adventure of Sex. Carrying a great XTC feel in their English Settlement era to it, the track glides through ears, stroking the imagination with its folkish yet boisterous melodies as another rhythmic escapade enslaves body and spirit.
Strong and enjoyable from the start but simply irresistible in its closing stretch, Amen easily warrants close attention from bigger spotlights. As suggested Bag of Nickels might not be venturing into unknown pastures with their album and sound but both leave a thick pleasure and keen want for more behind, a success many other bands can only dream of.
Amen is out now @ https://bagofnickels.bandcamp.com/
Pete RingMaster 02/09/2016
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