Karl Culley - Bundle Of Nerves
Karl Culley’s debut album Bundle Of Nerves is a glorious collection of jumbled images, disjointed stories and personal reflections all wrapped up in beautiful melodies and up tempo beats woven together by Culley’s fine voice. Think Iron and Wine mixed with a Tom Wait’s-style garage sale of eccentric bric-a-brac and you may get the idea.
The album opens up with the child-like ‘Elephant Juice’, an irreverant little ditty that starts off with the single line “I love you but you never come ‘round with the elephant juice” chanted throughout. The song begins slowly, gradually picking up pace like a dervish. This is followed by the hypnotic ‘I’m Not Proud of Myself’. “You should know / I’m not proud of myself / You should know/ I’m not proud of myself.” The lines are repeated over an over again as if Culley is trying to exorcise his demons.
The wonderful ‘In Her Nature’, a tale of lies and deceit based on the fable of the scorpion and the frog, moves at a galloping pace propelled by Culley’s prodigious guitar playing. The lovely ‘Thick As Thieves’, with its simple acoustic guitar and the beautiful backing vocals of Culley’s band feels almost like a lullaby; “I wanted to be there before I met you / Just so we could be thick as thieves.” The pace picks up again with the edgy ‘Bundle Of Nerves”; the twitchy guitar and the chant-like backing vocals accentuating the feelings of anxiety and insecurity expressed in the lyrics; “I am not cool as a cucumber like you are / I’m just not calm and collected like you are….I just can’t seem to control my nerves.” This is carried on in ‘The Haunting of Karl Culley’, a ghost story in which the spectres are manifestations of all of Culley’s fears. Culley’s guitar playing is flighty and erratic like the flapping wings of birds trying to escape; “These ghosts they hang me from the trees / Like shreds of moonbeam/ They wrap themselves around me like scarf…these ghosts they love me like their own.”
It is Culley’s evocative vocal style gives these already impressive songs added depth and feeling. Lyrics are repeated over and over like a mantra with the music bubbling away in the background giving the songs a hypnotizing, spell-like quality that is both unsettling and oddly soothing. Others take on an almost other-worldly nature. Take the ghostly ‘Man In The Shadows’ with its mournful cello running throughout like a thread, or the menacing ‘Sand And Snow' which gradually builds up momentum like a gathering storm before coming to a jarring and abrupt end.
The eleven songs that comprise Bundle Of Nerves evoke the doubts and fears of a burgeoning young artist, but if Karl Culley continues making music as fine as this he should have very little to worry about.