Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Calcination of Scout Niblett

Okay, I got the album. You've seen the previous video that I posted of the title song. Here is another song, "I.B.D.", that's on the album:

So what's my conclusion?

  1. Emma Louise "Scout" Niblett is one seriously weird chick. Believes in astrology and alchemy and such, talks crazy and her songs are even crazier.
  2. I like it -- perhaps because of, not despite, the fact that these songs are totally whack.
What you have here is Scout torturing her guitar and wailing, and occasionally torturing a drum set to go with it all. She's on a new label, Drag City, after being dropped by her previous label, and appears to have had a recording budget of about $50 and a budget for creating the packaging of about $10. Steve Albini supposedly produced this album, but given the recording budget, his contribution appears to have been to press the record button on the DAW on each track as Scout laid it down then run a quicky mix-down of the three instruments (voice, guitar, drum) at the end of the day.The packaging itself is one of those paper covered thingies with Scout on the front waving while holding her torch, and a rock on the back. You open it up, you see a pocket with a little booklet and say "oh look, a booklet!". You pull it out and... it's just pictures of rocks, one rock per page. Seriously! Is that crazy, or what?

The end result is the opposite of those manufactured pop acts with their pre-fab image and pre-fab sound. Ms. Niblett does whatever she feels like doing, and doesn't give a fuck whether you like it or not. The songs are interesting and unique without being pretentious -- Scout doesn't care whether you think she's a brilliant genius or some such shit like some of those pretentious "arty" types, she just wants to make the music she feels like making. She does know how to sing, can sing in tune when she feels like it (no auto-tune in sight anywhere on this album, I think Scout would probably shoot herself before letting anybody auto-tune her voice) and does know how to play her guitar nicely. But she spends a lot more time wailing and shredding than singing pretty, because pretty is boring. If you want pretty, go listen to Taylor Swift.

Okay, so how are the songs? Most of them are similar in sound to the two songs you've already heard -- i.e., unconventional in structure, mostly guitar-driven with the pedal kicking in and out, minimalist drums banging away on the tracks that aren't guitar-only. Somewhat minimalist-sounding, but Scout would sooner puke than do a boring singer-songwriter album, she isn't afraid of her guitar pedals. Indeed, you get the feeling she's just in there enjoying playing with the drum set and her guitar and her collection of pedals and the fact that an album came out of it in the end is sort of gravy. There's a couple of weak tracks in the middle but by and large the "interesting and unique" label applies to the rest. If you like the two tracks you've already heard you'll probably like most of the rest of the songs on the album. If you don't like those tracks, well. I understand Taylor Swift has an album out.

-- Badtux the Snarky Music Penguin


  1. At a small concert on her first tour. When the lead bands finished everyone got up and left.

    Scout came out, pulled on a filthy wig, picked up a drum stick by the small end and proceeded to beat the living crap out of a snare drum while screaming lyrics that really made no sense but fit with what she was doing to that snare.

    Crippled up as I am, I hobbled up in front of the stage which enraged her. Afterward the manager asked with a straight face what I thought. I said she was great. He died away laughing and said I put her on last because you were the only one that would enjoy her.

    Next time I saw her she showed up just at changeover. Got out turned to me and snarled "you, again, get a life."

    When you're a fan of Japanese noise bands, Scout isn't really that different. Try some early Melt Banana.

  2. Oh man, that is just fucking hilarious, and yeah, it doesn't surprise me one bit. She's calmed down a bit since then, ditched the wig, and moved to the guitar as her primary instrument of torture, and she actually talks to her audience without insulting them now (and she actually *has* audiences now, albeit small ones), but she's still a fucking loon, if ya know what I mean. But for some reason I like her crazy-ass music. What can I say, I blog as a penguin, for cryin' out loud!

    - Badtux the Music Penguin


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