Nick 13 - Nick 13 (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Nick 13

Nick 13 (2011)

Sugar Hill

Of all the bands I listened to when I was first getting into punk rock, there are not many I feel the need to revisit for anything other than an occasional nostalgia trip. Tiger Army is one of the few exceptions–a band I can still enjoy on their own musical merits. While they have been pigeonholed into the psychobilly genre from their inception, they've always been a very versatile band. In addition to experiments like collaborating with members of Bleeding Through on their last album, they've almost always included a country track on their LPs. For his solo debut, the group's mastermind Nick 13 takes the style of Tiger Army songs like "Outlaw Heart", "In the Orchard" and "Where the Moss Slowly Grows", expands it and refines it.

While this is a solo project, and is very much one man's vision, it's hard not to think of 13's other band when listening to his self-titled record. There are plenty of familiar elements at play, aside from Nick's instantly recognizable vocals. The upright bass heard throughout the album, for example. However, the presence of steel guitars and fiddles on songs like the opening 1-2 punch of "Nashville Winter" and "Carry My Body Down" is something not possible with Tiger Army's power trio setup, and helps the album stand on its own.

Another major difference is the complete absence of the Misfits-influenced lyrics that Tiger Army occasionally employ. While these horror themes are nowhere to be found here, several of the tracks have an eerie vibe about them–case in point "All Alone", arguably the album's strongest track, and definitely its most accessible.

In addition to the new material, a couple of old favorites from Tiger Army's II: The Power of Moonlite turn up on the second half of the album. "Cupid's Victim" is nearly unrecognizable from its original recording. It takes courage to completely reinvent your composition, rather than play it safe and just acousticize it, but the new version lacks the urgency that made the original so great. It feels like Nick is holding back vocally in the chorus, when it might have benefited to go full throttle. "In the Orchard" fares much better. Already one of Tiger Army's more country-tinged tunes, it is slowed down to nearly half its original speed here, and while familiar, it feels like an entirely new song.

This project has been in the works for a few years now, which is a long wait for 10 songs, of which only eight are new, but Nick 13 manages to be a satisfying listen nonetheless. Granted, there aren't a lot of surprises here. This is the guy from Tiger Army's country album and that's what it sounds like, although at times it feels like it could be a less rambunctious Hank Williams III project. Perfect for a hot summer night in your rocking chair on the front porch, or a long drive down a lonesome highway.