Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. The kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle. The ones that got away. For the second installment in the series, I asked Wymond Miles, member of Fresh & Onlys and solo artist in his own right to take his pick at an essential piece of the past. He picked Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth’s 1985 sophomore LP as the Jacobites, Robspierre’s Velvet Basement. I asked Wymond how this lovely piece of the post-punk landscape came into his life and what the record means to him.
Miles explained, “On tour ten years ago or so I was traveling through some beautiful deep south bible belt country. A buddy popped in the out of print 90’s reissue of the Jacobites’ sophomore album. A heavy storm was overhead with the wipers at full speed. The triumphant opener “Big Store” was so alive and effortlessly off the cuff with searing simple guitar hooks, while the singing sounded utterly inebriated. On the record’s first play it instantly felt like an old friend. The sequencing has got that one-two punch between “Where The Rivers End” and “Hearts Are Like Flowers” that are potent blows of melancholy. This album still has it’s fangs deep in me.”
He elaborates, “This was a transfiguration of the rock n roll cliches that I had resisted in the British classic rock canon–echoes of Faces, Stones, Bolan are all over the sound and aesthetic of their approach, but there’s something more poetic, pure and perhaps even naive in their ambitions to dip their cup in that generation’s song-craft current. In the way that their previous band the Swell Maps were unapologetic in their abrasive, angular, atonal, and decrepit repetitive take on punk music, the Jacobites were as unapologetic in romantic, literary, wistful and shambolic anglophile guitar pop. Kusworth and Sudden deserve to be spoken of as a songwriting duo with similar prestige as the lineage of McLennon/Foerster or even Moz/Marr in that there’s something alchemical in the initial fruits of their collaboration that is arguably greater than the sum of either individuals own independent work. Oh, and in their back pocket they had the greatest unsung piano balladeer of the modern era (Epic Soundtracks) as their fucking drummer! But the trail of scarves and cigarette butts leads to all kinds of fascinating roads all worthy of discovery (Crime + the City Solution, Rowland Howard, Swell Maps, all solo careers, etc). I feel connected to their stream every time I strum out some chords on a guitar looking to harness some elusive intangible into song form.”
This one’s gone through quite a few different iterations, originating on Glass Records and finding a new light in the 90’s on the Mammoth CD issue that Wymond mentions, finally finding a home on Numero Group these days. I’ve been a longtime fan of Nikki Sudden’s solo work, but his connection with Kusworth is as undeniable as Wymond mentions and their tenure as a songwriting team is at its peak on Robspierre’s Velvet Basement, for sure. Its highly recommended you use this as as starting point and then let yourself dive down a deep Nikki Sudden rabbit hole. As for Wymond, you can (and should) check out my review of his heartbreaking new album, Call By Night here, out now on Sacred Bones Records.
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