Neil Nathan Inc.: Sweep The Nation
Rock and roll has always had a good relationship with progressive social movements and political protest. Whether it comes from the right or the left, expressing opinions through music is often far less obnoxious than the talking heads, and generally more meaningful. While far from a life-changing experience or anything that might disrupt politics and business as usual, Neil Nathan‘s new album Sweep The Nation is a clear statement for the power of the people over corporate greed.
Imbued with the spirit of David Bowie, Roger Waters, and Bruce Springsteen, Sweep the Nation is something of a concept album. Most the narrative takes place beyond the actual songs, but the official synopsis describes an alien visitor (The Overlord) coming to Earth to turn us away from an inevitable corporate world takeover. I like the idea that Nathan is trying to express with this record, but the overall flow makes it less of a concept album and more of a collection of protest songs that lacks a discernible narrative.
The record starts very strong with “Jumpstart” and the anthemic title track, “Sweep the Nation.” Both are hard hitting classic rock hit material, stylistically reminiscent of the Kinks, Neil Young, and more recent Green Day. The title track is especially rousing, setting the stage for a grand changing of the guard.
The third track, “Comin’ Round the Bend” slows things down a little in traditional rock-balladry style. The vocal harmonies are really stellar, but the song mostly fell flat due to its length and pacing. “I Ain’t No Company Man” on the other hand is a crunchy, hard rocking masterpiece. The song talks about the dissolution of the United States, and subsequently the rest of the world’s economic powers, and their recreation as a singular corporate entity. What’s scary about this is that it could really happen, and it says a lot for our possible collective fates.
“Pathway to Ruin” is another strong track that falls right in line with the album’s themes. The guitars on this track rise and fall with a sinister, drone-like energy while Nathan’s voice haunts the spaces above and below. “A Way” really reminded me of earlier R.E.M. and is one of the coolest songs on the record in terms of its structure, riffs, and drum arrangements. Nathan doesn’t hold back much here, filling every moment with really wicked guitar leads and slightly distorted vocals above a truly juicy drum beat.
One of the few ballads that doesn’t feel forced, the closing track “All We Need is So Much More” really caps the album off nicely. This tune build slowly from Nathan’s genuine voice and acoustic guitar to a compelling, percussive, emotional epic conclusion. Rather than writing more than necessary, the song’s lyrics repeat the chorus line for the greater majority of the track. The minimal writing allows for the message to come through strong and clear: we deserve more than we are getting from the powers that be, and we should stand up and demand what is rightfully ours.
To return to an earlier critique, the album as a whole is less cohesive than I would have liked for such a heavy-handed concept, but it does have a whole lot of charm and some truly well crafted songs. The harder, more rock oriented tunes are the real highlight while the ballads feel overwrought and out of place. Perhaps with a little more cutting to make the record shorter and a stronger narrative it could have edged closer to the conceptual modern rock masterpiece it strives so genuinely to be.
MP3: Neil Nathan Inc. “A Way”
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