Billy Nomates self-titled debut album is out now via Invada Records.
It’s been a long time since I listened to an album without knowing anything about the artist. That was the case with the debut album from British electronic/post-punk musician Billy Nomates (aka Tor Maries). Having no expectations whatsoever gave me a sense of excitement for discovering a previously unknown artist. However, after listening to the whole album a couple of times I feel like it’s a mixed bag with a bunch of great tracks paired with a few rather mediocre ones.
So after I listened to the album for the first time I had two similar-sounding bands in mind. First, and more obvious band was, of course, Sleaford Mods (and not only because of Jason Williamson’s guest appearance which I will tackle a bit later). Billy takes a lot of inspiration from them, both in lyrically and musically. The quasi spoken-word vocal style with angry lyrics over pulsating bass is a staple of the “Nottz” originating duo. The second band, perhaps less obvious, was an early 2000s Scottish band called Life Without Buildings. With them it’s not so much about the lyrical side, but more generally an overall feeling of the albums more mellow tracks (especially ‘Modern Hart’ or ‘Mudslinger’).
Okay but enough talking about other bands, let’s talk about Billy herself now. Right from the start, you can tell she’s pissed and rightfully so if I were to judge that. Overall lyrics are a clear highlight of this album (and it comes from the person who usually doesn’t care about that). Billy sarcastically mocks the “hippie elite” with the set of lyrics relatable to probably most of us who feel guilty of not doing enough for the planet (“I wanna save the whales too, but its a fuckin Wednesday afternoon”). She also takes on the privilege and power of “fat white man”, let’s give it to the author herself here: “It doesn’t matter where you work, fat white men still have too much power/say/ownership”.
Another track worth mentioning here is a single, simply called ‘No’ which focuses on the power which that short word bears within itself. I feel like it perfectly lays out the whole narrative of this album and acts as a central point with everything else being built around it: “No is the greatest resistance”.
But, what about the music which accompanies those great lyrics you may ask. Here’s the point where my mixed feelings start to appear due to some questionable choices. Firstly I have to add that Jason Williamson’s guest spot on ‘Supermarket Sweep’ sounds really odd and out of place on his track. He doesn’t fit the first part of the song and the whole beat at all. Apart from that he just sounds tired so especially the part where he goes “fuck yeah” is just plain bad. That’s the general theme of Billy’s debut that I have a problem with. On a few occasions, the angry lyrics just don’t match the more restrained music choices (‘Modern Hart’, ‘Hippy Elite’, or ‘Mudslinger’).
This is a really promising debut. Billy doesn’t just copy Sleaford Mods’ unique style but rather takes inspiration from it and tries to turn it into something of her own. Hopefully, her next album will be more cohesive musically.