The Nils: Shadows and Ghosts

The Nils Shadows and Ghosts.jpg

Submitted by Lenny Stoute

As comebacks go, this is easily the least anticipated from an influential Canadian act, which makes its quality all the more impressive. The Nils were the brightest shining lights of the Eighties rock scene in Montreal, scoring immediate attention with a handful of great EPs and a wildly praised self-titled full-length debut which made Rolling Stone’s College Rock Top 10 chart and put them on the road for extensive touring on  both sides of the border. The sound the people were raving about was a hooky mix of punk aggro, grabby melodies and slick song writing. They were name-checked by Bob Mould, producer Chris Spedding, the Meat Puppets and others of weight.

The wheels started falling off when their record company went bust mid-tour, leaving the band mostly high and dry. Bandleader Carlos Soria put the band on hiatus and the fans went into sleep mode, awaiting the next burst of music from The Nils. The wait went on and hope ebbed from even the most faithful as drug abuse tore apart the band, the ongoing tragedy being capped by the suicide of frontman Alex Soria.

The comeback drums started beating with a few Facebook postings, then there was a crowdfunding campaign and now it's actually here, the return of The Nils. The new lineup's original Nils member Mark Donato and newcomer Phil Psarakos on guitars, Jean Lortie back on drums and Carlos on bass and lead vocals. With the passing of Alex, Carlos took up the singing duties and has grown into the role admirably. His style isn't that of Alex, for whom the album is named but more like a cross between Jeff Tweedy and Bob Mould.

It serves the 11 songs here well, most of them on themes of surviving and getting back to thriving, standouts being "For the Love of Hank" and "Love to Hate." Affairs of the heart are nicely covered in "Belly Full O' Heartache, " with its shoutout to Molson's and "Lonesome Rendezvous"  and the haters get rated on "Tony Sanchez" with hearty lines like "Fuck off and get yer own."

All are brisk, sharp-hooked, high energy, altrock earworms the likes of which hasn't been heard in some time. It appears that given enough time, the sophomore jinx becomes something that happens to other people.  That this album happened at all is a testament to one man's love and tenacity.

Carlos noted in an interview with The Montreal Gazette, "When Alex died, I always had it in the back of my mind that we never got to make a legitimate second album.”

Alex and The Nils can rest easy now, secure in the knowledge this is 'that' album.Carlos says for free. There is some nascent airplay, and interest. New song deserves to be a survivor’s anthem. They are shopping for tour slots with an actual manager, Peter Wark. Most people have been encouraging, but Carlos says 20 per cent of people turn the other way: “How dare you?”