Blazing Apostles

The best of Bill Nelson's undervalued art rockers, coinciding with reissues of five original Be-Bop albums

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THEY’RE ONE OF ROCK’S classic marginal bands, the resonance of whose name far outweighs recognition of their work. Everyone’s heard of them, but few have heard their work. Give this a spin, though, and you won’t be so sure. This excellent little compilation, timed to coincide with a new Bill Nelson post-Deluxe band autumn tour and biog, is pregnant with snippets that filled rock radio in the ’70s? “Ships In The Night”, “Sister Seagull”?and were endlessly touted by the likes of Johnny Walker and Alan Freeman as the next big thing.

You can hear why?taut, self-referential art pop with enough nods to metal and prog stylings? notably in leader Nelson’s blistering guitar work?to appeal across the board. Add a memorably literate imagistic discourse of an imagined future of Art Deco and Nelson’s sublime gift for evocation and it should have been all so simple. People might even have overlooked Nelson’s grotesque glam barnet and the awful Sunburst Finish LP cover from ’76.

But punk wasn’t a forgiving phenomenon, and Deluxe were swept away by a movement whose more imaginative survivors might have felt considerable affinity with them (Bauhaus and Scritti Politti spring to mind). And there remains the suspicion that the smart-alecky eclecticism of Nelson’s vision might have been a little too smart to win the band a niche market.

For too long, this band have been termed a bunch of Roxy wannabes. This album, obviously the work of someone musically and lexically literate, gives the lie to that. Any song whose guitar lines are as ecstatic as those on “Maid In Heaven” was created by an unlucky band whose leader was unfortunate enough to choose Isherwood as his muse when Tolkien was the bard of choice. Go out and rediscover them. Now.


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