THE SONGS OF self-produced Canadian post-punk purveyor, Robert Nix, have an odd generational time perspective. At times it’s as if a father were singing songs written by his teenage son. But that theory is blown out of the water by the self-explanatory ‘What Will You Do (Out Of School)?’. Perhaps Robert is addressing his younger self there. Sure, that idea has legs. Maybe these are songs he wrote as a teenager. I could believe that. They are certainly delivered with a youthful enthusiasm. Maybe they’ve been written to sound as if they come from the perspective of a teenager – Not always an easy thing to do.
Despite these theories, the work of Robert Nix remains a conundrum. Not conceptually as the words are pretty straightforward, but without making too fine a point of it, there’s a time misplacement between the lyric narrator and the artist himself. A certain lyrical naivete prevails and often verges uncomfortably close to the preachy, exactly as a younger man in a fit of his own philosophy and keen to communicate it to anyone who will listen, would do.
It’s exactly this intellectual push/pull of Once In A Blue Moon that on the one hand intrigues and keeps you listening, but on the other makes you suspect you’ve unwittingly allowed yourself to land in the realm of the guilty pleasure. This realisation is compounded by low-fi production values, which take a back seat to the above-mentioned lyrical pointedness. Additional musicians would’ve provided backbone and aided in avoiding this sonic skeleton crumbling into a haze of out-dated drum samples and ‘80s-style digital reverb.
To confuse matters further, two tracks that amount to filler let the album down towards its climax. One, ‘Dad’s Song’, is a trombone sample played as a rudimentary piano part, and the other, ‘Real Time Drum Solo’ is a self-explanatory outing that would’ve been improved by the use of an acoustic drum kit. These tracks suggest impatience with finishing the album.
In conclusion, Robert’s interesting use of harmony and the songs’ natural theatrical flair enable this eccentric record to rise above its self-recorded misgivings. To be fair, recording in isolation is a task and a half for anyone and can be the source of more headache than heart-flip. But it’s the music that matters, and Nix’s music itself stands up to the extent that the idea of moving to a better studio with a good engineer and a couple of extra players amounts to mere details. PETER KEARNS
Music = 3/5