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Nowhere Man: Making Tucson Somewhere

Posted by September 29th, 2004 No Comments »

Album Review – Nowhere Man
Love Asphyxia
I Like Red Recordings
By Matt Brown

In the last installment of my column showcasing the Tucson, Arizona music community, I devoted an entire feature to I Like Red Recordings, giving a high rating (8/10) to Vikas Pawa’s solo project, Nowhere Man, and his first release, Considered To Tears. Since that column ran, I’ve seen Nowhere Man grow from an introspective songwriter’s labor of love, lust and midlife malaise to, simply and honestly put, my favorite Southwest band.

In fact, the growth documented on Nowhere Man’s new release, Love Asphyxia, reflects the maturation of more than just a single rock group. Mark my words; this is the landmark album of a cohesive musical underground. The seeds of a revolution have begun to sprout.

Unlike its predecessor, Love Asphyxia is a collaborative effort between several creative minds. Vikas has recorded and played in many of Tucson’s finest bands, and counts among his friends several of the best musicians the Southwest has to offer. Nowhere Man, the band, is something of a local supergroup, featuring Michael Hummer (drummer for the popular metal band, PH8,) Beth Holub (bass guitarist and viola player for The Pago Pago,) and Michelle Kushner (bassist for fellow pop sensations Let’s English, here providing keyboards and some stunning backing vocals.) Connecticut-based guitarist Merritt Jacob is a strong presence on this recording as well, co-writing two of the best songs on the album (the riff-rockin’ “Satin Smile” and his stunning, Gram Parsons meets Crowded House ballad “Wanted Nothing”) and playing the majority of the leads. His solo on “Month of Mondays,” slowly erupting after the song seemingly comes to a close, is some jaw-dropping work.

Overall, Love Asphyxia takes the guitar-driven pop sound that Tucson bands (The Solace Brothers, Let’s English, The Stellas) have been perfecting over the last few years and saturates it with ascerbic psychedelia. Vikas hasn’t lost any of his trademark bite either, singing his stinging lyrics in a laconic drawl.

“Shitting Glitter” and “The Pretenders” are wry denunciations punctuated with heavy guitar crunch and trippy synth funk. The album hits a low point lyrically with “On The Streets”(it’s impossible for me to hear trite shite like “I’m in a fright” and, even worse, the word “fortnight” in any song written after 1903 and not laugh cruelly), but “Just As Attached” is one of the most simple, direct and affecting documents of a breakup you’ll ever hear.

Tucson is acclaimed internationally for the rootsy clamor of Calexico and Giant Sand. The punk bands here (two prime examples being The Knockout Pills, now signed to Bellingham’s Estrus Records, and Shark Pants – good Lord, Shark Pants!) are phenomenal.

However, if I had to define Tucson’s “sound,” the eclectic, melodic rock music of bands such as Camp Courageous, The Jons and Final would come immediately to mind. With the release of Love Asphyxia, Nowhere Man has moved to the forefront of a movement that continues to grow. Stay tuned. – (9/10)

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