Reviews

Netherfriends try on Harry Nilsson

netherfriends-does-nilsson

Netherfriends Does Nilsson

Netherfriends

Release Date: Sep 03, 11

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Do you know Harry Nilsson? Sounds like a political figure of the early half of the last century. But you don’t have to blame your low US History score. Nilsson was the man responsible for “Coconut,” that tune you probably only know of off the top of your head thanks to Coca Cola’s 2005 ad campaign to launch their then-new product with lime. Those ads didn’t even use the original lyrics. But now that you’re more familiar, come be better friends with Nilsson via Netherfriends, the name otherwise known as Chicagoan Shawn Rosenblatt. Sampling Nilsson’s music to create his own short ditties, Netherfriends makes an amateur attempt at something conceptually new (although not for Netherfriends – he also remade the music to Baraka). Short and sweet and to the point, but otherwise tiresome thematically.

Starting like an ethereal flashback, “Full Of It” quickly changes into a funkified version of some lost Beastie-Boys-meets-TV-On-The-Radio mash-up. Between the abrupt shifts in disc-spinning synthetics and psychedelic guitar pickings come reflective verses set against a comical and yet potentially existential conversation. Where this dialogue comes from I do not know. Rosenblatt alone? The Nilsson man himself? Found archival footage? It’s great. Short as a sample may be (2:20 total), it’s a swell tune to start out on.

More lo-fi, less edge is the indie pop ballad “Me and My Ego” (complete with self-deprecating harmonies). Maybe it’s supposed to be more art satire, more pop culture digestive. “It has nothing to do with music. Really? Nothing? What the fuck am I doing?” Again taking conversational form, only this time it’s a personal happy-go-lucky look at life. Set to the backdrop of someone else’s musings. Art imitating life imitating art.

Faster and more cinematic, “Nobody’s Talking” really lets the Nilsson shine through – you can almost hear “Coconut” in the background notes. Revisiting the loneliness of the previous track, Rosenblatt offsets the deep drum-balancing rhythm  at one point with a seemingly random insert of vocals sans music. And then the instrumentation of the track continues for the rest of its 2:34 life.

While my downloaded track is titled as “Lonely” I am going to assume it is supposed to be known as “Lonely Parachute Fort.” Have you noticed a theme by now? For once though, it’s as if Roseblatt’s words are directed towards a specific other, not just a proverbial audience. Thus far on Nilsson, this seems to be the most completed structural song.

Coming in on “Girrrlfriend” with just vocalizations (that are pretty hypnotic to listen to for their brief duration), Rosenblatt chooses to close the album asking when he’ll get a swell gal all his own again. “A warm-hearted woman.” And then Sesame Street-esque vocalizations again. They’re the real star point of the song more than the whining wonderments. As a whole though, Nilsson could be taken as a sampling of Netherfriends’ ability to ask himself heavyhearted questions in lighthearted ways. But for the shortness of the album, and the swankiness that accompanies each track, it’ll do for now.