The Upshot: Beautifully played, full of the clean, lovely sounds that can be made on traditional rock instruments, but it’s not very memorable.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Cian Nugent sang a little bit on “Houses of Parliament,” the side-long closer from 2013’s Born with a Caul, and he rocked the power pop pretty convincingly in the 2012 self-titled from Dublin’s 1s. So though he’s mostly known as one of the American primitive guitar revival’s more prominent young pickers (alongside Ryley Walker, Steve Gunn, William Tyler, Daniel Bachman and others), he’s also got some ambitions in the song-based direction. Night Fiction is his first full-length to explore those inclinations in a relaxed, down-tempo, country-slanted California kind of way.
The guitar playing is, not surprisingly, unusually fine, polished to a fine glow, effortlessly blossoming from jangle to blues-rock solo in “Lost Your Way,” vamping cockily in “First Run,” murmuring soulfully in Stax-scented “Things Don’t Change that Fast.” Long-time collaborator Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh complements him nicely on electric viola, with swirling, dizzying runs that are wild and sweet at the same time. Nugent’s voice is good enough, earnest and encased in reverb for a laid-back, cushiony melodic sound. The rest of the band, David Lacey on drums, bassist Conor Lumsden and keyboard player Brendan Jenkinson fills the space admirably but without much fuss. The sound is dense but not overbusy.
The problem is that none of the songs really stick. They’re medium tempo and unhook, sincere but not especially interesting. Night Fiction is beautifully played, full of the clean, lovely sounds that can be made on traditional rock instruments, but it’s not very memorable.
Download: “Things Don’t Change That Fast”