Monday, May 31, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #68

It's always interesting when foreign bands attempt to sing in English, especially when it's done either phonetically or with only the most minimal grasp of the language. When Dutch band The Nits began recording three decades ago, they made the decision to sing mostly in English in hopes of international fame. One can argue the fame eventually came to them (except here in the US) after many years and a few overhauls in both lineup and sound, but as they started out their command of the language was shaky at best.

In some ways, that added to The Nits' appeal. On their earliest records (Tent, New Flat, and Work), The Nits played a herky-jerky version of skinny-tie New Wave - sort of more European sounding Vapors, or The Knack had they chosen to worship post-Rubber Soul Beatles rather than the 1964 version. Their clipped pronunciations and off-kilter phrasing fit their percolating melodies beautifully, and a number of wonderful singles resulted: "Tent," "The Young Reporter," and "Tutti Ragazzi" are among the best examples of the style.

A change in personnel and a change in the musical landscape started The Nits down a more progressive pop path. The melodic hiccups and abrupt chord changes that had been integral to their sound began to be smoothed out by lush keyboard washes; they became much improved in their English; they began to get international notice. They would eventually have a major European hit in 1987 with "In the Dutch Mountains," but they were still just a bit to continental for American radio tastes.

The Nits have never stopped making music. They are still active today, 31 years after those early singles. That they are little more than a New Wave footnote here in the US is a shame - those early albums are excellent. To give you a taste of what everyone missed back then, this week's NW4NW entry is a clip of The Nits on Dutch TV back in 1980 performing "The Young Reporter."

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