Nicole Atkins - Slow Phaser: Expanded Deluxe Edition
On Nicole Atkins' headstone: 'I just wasn't made for these times.' Or maybe – hopefully – not. For her elegant reworking of legacy materials, how she seems to grate the very root of rock 'n' roll into her increasingly distinct brew, is surely so very now. There's your irony, huh? And by now, certainly if the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Nick Cave (just two of her elite band of patrons) are to believed, she should be branded on the collective consciousness. It's Cave who inadvertently offers the schmucks and mopes a second chance, as a bonus live set recorded while on tour with him earlier this year gives album number three Slow Phaser a second wind. And where lesser artists would have perhaps paid their debts to the past down a respectfully trad road, Atkins' songbook still feels enticingly off-kilter.
The original release was worth your moolah twice over and re-assessment pitches it perhaps as a transitional work, confirmation of a wandering muse. It felt, on release, oddly accessible. That's still the case, but time reveals a smooth sophistication. Perhaps that's why the live versions breathe a different kind of fire. As the crowd warms, Atkins and her band whip a gale around the hall. They blitz 'Who Killed the Moonlight?' and 'Gasoline Bride', roughing up the originals with a possessed glee. Her vocals, ever a wonder, are a breathy, pitch-perfect animal here. The older stuff makes way for the new: only 'The Way It Is' and 'War Torn' find a home amongst a set tailored to Atkins' current brimstone aesthetic. As the show concludes with a raging, unforgiving take-down of album centrepiece 'The Tower', Cave's congregation at Detroit's Masonic Temple clearly gets it. Which begs the question: why the fuck don’t you?