// Album Recommendation

Marty Willson-Piper

Nightjar

(2008)

“And the hero’s in ecstacy
As he waves to the crowd
But the hero’s the enemy
As the truth is devoured.”

Nightjar by Marty Willson Piper

The otherworldly and fascinating music of guitarist Marty Willson-Piper's long-time band, excellent Australian cult legends The Church, tends to be a lot more adventurous than his own solo works, and Nightjar is no exception in this regard. Nevertheless, as with his former band mate Steve Kilbey’s magnificient Painkiller (released the same year), overall it was his most ambitious, accomplished and satisfying solo album to date. As usual with these guys, no matter what they do, there is a lot to admire here.

Rooted in Folk/Folk-Rock, the arrangements of the songs on Nightjar are lush and intricate, with a wide array of instruments ranging from electric 12-string guitars, acoustic guitars, violin, strings, trumpet, bamboo flute and accordion to pedal steel guitar (all exposed to subtle, tasteful playing). Nightjar is a much more orthodox record than his bandmate Steve Kilbey's complex Painkiller, but the song structures and the layered, atmospheric guitars result in songs that never become conventional and predictable. Add to this Marty's voice, which is as rich, smooth and soothing to the soul as always, and you’ve got an album that no Church fan should be without. Nightjar’s opener, the hypnotic and beautifully arranged No One There, is a powerful and instantly alluring track, dealing with the death of Marty Willson-Piper's mother ("Pull me up from deep inside this pillow / Feathers soft, I lay my head in sorrow / There's caverns dark / And then there's eyes that stare / And I hear fingers snapping / But I hear no one there"). It’s a breathtaking composition, with its dramatic intro (drums fading in, followed by acoustic and electric guitars), its tasteful instrumental backing and Marty Willson-Piper’s interweaving lead & backing vocals.

Another big and sweeping song on Nightjar is the striking The Sniper, an acerbic commentary on the hypocrisy and false justification of warmaking (“And underneath we all know it / And I sit and watch it happen”), in this particular case presumably the war in Irac ("And the hero’s in ecstacy / As he waves to the crowd / But the hero’s the enemy / As the truth is devoured”). The sniper’s actual identity isn’t revealed, only that he has reached his breaking point, leaving it up to the listener to decide, whether he’s a soldier...or, perhaps, one of us going crazy with the insanity of it all (“I’ve waved goodbye to the rational / With this democratic choice / For tonight I’m going nationaldraws pictures and paint paintings / With my only real voice”).  Nightjar's centerpiece is Feed Your Mind. This bouncy, joyous and melodic, midtempo Folk/Pop song celebrates life. Marty Willson-Piper draws pictures and paints paintings with words that draw you in and and make you contemplate the complex nature of this world that we live in. The lyrics create evocative mental images urging us to explore life in all its incarnations, the wonders of wanderlust, travelling, meeting foreigners and getting to know new people, new friends, new lovers, new cultures ("At the end of the night / We all speak the same language / As you fall off your stool one more time / Well, we all fall in love / As we wave our farewells..."

Other noteworthy songs on Nightjar include the infectious, arpeggio folk of More Is Less (which brings to mind early Al Stewart), the regretful Lullaby For The Lonely (“You thought that you could manifest your dreams / Then you find you’re on the losing team”), the acoustic ballad Song For Victor Jara (a tribute to the Chilean poet, singer/songwriter & political activist, who was shot to death), featuring a beautiful bamboo flute solo, and the pedal steel guitar-infused The Love You Never Had (a song Ryan Adams might've written in the right frame of mind) about the elusiveness of love and having the courage to believe in it (“If you ever want to fall in love again / You know it isn’t if, it’s only when / On an unsuspecting corner / With nobody to warn you / And you know it fails 12 times out of 10”). The wistful I Must Have Fallen is Willson-Piper laying bare his feelings of longing for a seemingly "aloof" Swedish woman, whom he admired from a distance: “Skin like light, what a sight / When I first saw you / Standing there, unaware / Your neck bare, yellow hair / I already adore you”. Nightjar is a must-have addition to any Church fan's music collection.  

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