The great thing about any new Nelson King album is the fact that you sort of know what you are going to get, and you sort of don’t. By that, I mean that you know the genres that he likes to juggle, Stonesy R&B, punked-up singer-songwriter styles, rootsy rock and roll and everything in between. But, any one of those genres covers a lot of ground and then you have to factor in his ability to throw in a few creative curveballs of his own and you have to suspend expectation and just dive in. So essentially Visions is a typical Nelson King album because it is so atypical. Got it?
Bright Lights Tonight, which kicks us off, is a typical example of this mercurial musical state that he has achieved, being that it is a gorgeous wash of rock and roll grooves ebbing and flowing against each other yet it runs on a surprisingly jaunty, almost indie-pop beat. It is both fresh and familiar without you being able to exactly put your finger on why.
By contrast, Strong which follows is peak Nelson and the vibes suggest the sort of thing that Tom Petty used to execute so expertly around the time of Full Moon Fever. And then you find something like Light Up, a strange blend of psychedelics and subtle sonics, layers of guitars all weaving intricately around and about each other to create a raft of tones and textures, sometimes offering spacious lulls at other times ornate and layered. Fabulous.
Bluesong reminds us of what a supple and subtle guitarist he is. They say that it is harder to underplay than overplay, not that he would do anything vulgar like showboat or show off but if you think Nelson revels in being a rock and roller, this understated instrumental, dripping with blues textures and oozing with atmosphere and anticipation shows us just what a deft and delicate player he is when the song calls for it.
And of course, once he has lulled you into a calm and cocooned place with the sensitivity of his creation, Jive On, as the name suggests, is the one to get you wigging out on the dance floor, cutting a rug, throwing some shapes and generally boogieing the night away. And it is that ability to flip a switch and change gears effortlessly which keeps you guessing throughout his albums, and indeed his live shows.
The album ends with The World Says Hello, a strange staccato rock beast, part Bowie part…well, part Nelson King, because no matter what influences and infusions you might pick up on in his songs, the majority of what you hear is the man himself.
Rock, blues, folk and pop are all genres that you think are clearly defined and playing by the rules. But put one, some, all and perhaps more of such genres in Nelson King’s hands and you always end up with something that you weren’t quite expecting. There is no need to invent new genres, the existing ones still have plenty of places to go. How do I know, I have just listened to Nelson King prove exactly that.