David Nance Group: Peaced And Slightly Pulverized Album Review
David Nance makes music as if he were a member of an endangered species. The Omaha guitarist clings to the most well-worn FM-radio tropes—extended jams, grungy riffs, heroic choruses—like someone grabbing their most precious belongings from their burning house. He draws on those comforting sounds of the past to make profoundly uncomfortable music for the now. This freak-flag-waving allegiance to dinosaur-rock traditions matches his outlook on life and our grim prospects for survival on a planet that resembles a figurative and literal dumpster fire. For Nance, a face-melting guitar solo isn’t just a showcase of virtuosity; it’s a form of therapy, the only means to let out his anger and anxiety without getting himself arrested or committed.
Following a handful of wiggy lo-fi releases and classic-album reinterpretations under his own name, Peaced and Slightly Pulverized is Nance’s first release as the David Nance Group—a sophisticating rebrand that not only signals tighter songcraft and more muscular production but also the last-gang-in-town ardor of these performances. (And hey, if rock is the new jazz—a once-revolutionary sound slowly fossilizing into a nostalgic niche concern—why not get yourself a classy bandstand moniker?) The album was recorded by guitarist/keyboardist Jim Schroeder in his basement, but Nance’s newly anointed four-piece rips and wails through these seven tracks like they’re headlining the Fillmore.
For all its vivid evocations of rock’s bygone glory days, Peaced and Slightly Pulverized is undeniably a product of the tense present. “Poison,” the album’s valorous opener, realizes a flannel-clad fantasy of 1980s Springsteen fronting 1970s Crazy Horse. But its lyrics (“Spent the time/Took a dive/Landed nowhere fast”) are imbued with a very 2018 sense of chronic disappointment and helplessness. The epic “Amethyst” is an even more flagrant act of “Cortez”-killing, but it churns and rages in ways that even Neil Young never broached. As Nance and Schroeder get lost in a tangle of sad-eyed psychedelic leads and atonal screech, the song becomes the musical manifestation of a panic attack. Even when the group settles into the nocturnal Creedence voodoo of “110 Blues,” there’s a queasy quality to Nance’s voice, his words drifting past you like freeway billboards you can’t quite read.
Peaced and Slightly Pulverized still bears the jittery after-shocks of Nance’s more frazzled work. “Ham Sandwich” is a manic blast of garage-skronk that rails against income inequality with lunchmeat metaphors and guitars that squeal like ghost-controlled theremins. And while Nance’s oblique critique of organized religion and capitalism rolls in on a cool groove during “Prophet’s Profit,” it soon roils and boils into a volcanic sax-ocalypse.
But the album also teases out a new tenderness and grace, particularly during the riveting emotional centerpiece, “In Her Kingdom.” The seven-minute track functions as a corollary to Nance’s “River With No Color,” his seething indictment of human overconsumption and trash-filled waterways. “In Her Kingdom” is, likewise, set amid a garbage-strewn scene, though here it’s less a damning symbol of gluttony than a stark mark of poverty. Atop a hazy drift that sounds like Pavement trying to jam on the Doors’ “The End,” Nance paints an affectionate, sympathetic portrait of a woman living in a dilapidated house filled with “cigarette butts and McDonald’s cups.” He marvels at her resilience, resourcefulness, and apparent peace with having nothing in a world where we’re conditioned to crave more, more, more. “In her kingdom of shit!” Nance repeatedly cries as the song peaks, conveying a sense of awe that verges on jealousy. In constructing its own universe from the wood-paneled detritus of classic rock, Peaced and Slightly Pulverized outfits Nance with a cozy kingdom of shit to call his own.