I finally tore myself away from work (unis are great until the bloody students show up ;) and a few too many gigs for a reasonable sanity level to put together my thoughts on Instrumental last November. And of course I didn't get the chance to put them up until now!
Instrumental is, by far, the Nick CD I have listened to least. It's not that it isn't great, but I think a lot of the time I just wanted to hear another record - I got it last of the studio records, and it just suffered more by comparison to what I knew far better. Besides, I love his voice, so I'd just been inclined to leave it aside for far too long. I've been listening to it more often since I started working on my website, and it's really grown on me.
I have a few thoughts on the songs, but I do apologize if any of this sounds bollocks - I keep thinking of this album as being very "pastoral" (if anything Nick plays with this much fire and passion can be pastoral!), and it all follows themes of nature in my head, so I'll throw them out as well.
Swansong - Considering the Led Zep-ish font on the CD, is this connected to Zep in any way? Probably far too introspective for them, I'd imagine. I always pictured a flowing river when I heard it, even before I read another review that said this - so it's not just me then! I love the run of notes near the end.
The Sky Goes All The Way Home - I think this was first featured as the hidden track-let on Smithereens (if you let Acoustic Smithereens run all the way to the end). If it is the same song, this full version is slower and starts off more brooding, but sounds brighter and more hopeful as it progresses. Maybe it is like a journey home, or a sunrise.
The Whack 'n' Riddle Tree - Though you can almost hear Nick's fingers dancing over the strings, this is, in my opinion, a very delicate song. I think it's because the finger picking makes all the notes sound quite "fragile". If I think about the tree, this song is the sunlight through the leaves. I think the "middle 8", where the melody changes dramatically, is really special - it brightens my mood when I hear it.
Harperspace - Really well done technically, but for some reason I don't find this as compelling, passionate or cohesive as the others. If I could figure out why, I'd say. Still works fine in the context of the disc.
Like Punk Never Happened - Didn't there always used to be running jokes in the UK music press about various new wave bands and later musical trends, and how they existed "like punk never happened"? I always found this title really clever because of that! Dances by far too quickly - very light and airy, but technically challenging at the same time. I loved it when during the Fringe Nick would play this sitting in the crowd next to some poor unsuspecting soul, who would try not to sit open-mouthed in awe while he was totally focused on his playing. ;)
Riverside (revisited) - I may have a slight preference for the version on Light At The End Of The Kennel (which sounds "larger" to me, if that makes any sense), but this version fits with the tone of the disc as a whole. In any version this is such a stunning song. Don't know what more I can say about it - still a jaw-dropping, "how does he DO that" song for me, always will be. He doesn't get the chance to take the 12-string out often enough!
Instrumental - As others have mentioned, it just sums up Nick's sense of humour that this is the only vocal track on the album, and that he does the play of words with the title. ;) I love the words of this song (and the playing is gorgeous as well). As he says live, it's his tribute to non-violent direct action, and he wears his heart on his sleeve for it. He sings in a haunting, plaintive way, and it really fits the mood of the song - get your butt in gear and DO something before it's too late, cos anyone can make a difference. Hey, it works for me... especially now.
Thanks for letting me ramble. If anyone wants to have a shot at reviewing this, or any of Nick's other albums, please do!