Courtesy: Stax Records
The self-titled debut record from Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats is one of the most intriguing albums to be released so far this year. The Denver-based band’s eleven-song set mixes classic soul and R&B sounds with modern lyrics to make an album that will grow on audiences increasingly with each listen. And with each respective listen, audiences will increasingly agree that this album is in its own way one of the best new albums of 2015. One song that proves that argument is the album’s lead single ‘S.O.B.’ This infectious, up-tempo piece was a perfect choice for a first impression for the band and if the band lives on past its debut album, will most certainly go on to be a fan favorite years down the road. That is the case thanks to both its musical and lyrical content. The album’s opener ‘I Need Never Get Old’ is just as enjoyable of an example of how much this album has to offer listeners. It does so in exactly the same way as the album’s lead single, too. The same can be said of ‘Look It Here.’ The song’s steady 4/4 tempo and its pleading lyrics stand out against so many songs of lost love that one can’t help but note its enjoyment. It’s just one more example of what makes the self-titled debut LP from Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats a solid start for the band. That is not to discount the album’s other songs by any means. Any one of the songs included in this record could be used as examples in their own right. It just so happened that these three are the ones that this critic found served as the album’s best trio of representative tracks. Collectively speaking, all eleven songs (S.O.B. is actually included both in a “clean” version and a regular version making for twelve tracks but eleven songs) come together to complete an album that is one of the year’s best new overall albums.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ self-titled debut album is one of the year’s best new overall albums and one of its most intriguing to be released so far. That is thanks to the mix of soul and r&B influences that flow throughout the record’s eleven songs. Given the Denver-based band is not the first to exhibit such influences in its music. But there is something about the combined talents of the band’s members–Nathaniel Rateliff, Joseph Pope III, Patrick Mese, Luke Mossman, Mark Shusterman, Wesley Watkins, and Andy Wild–and those of the album’s production that make this record feel like it was sent through time direct from music’s golden era. That is made clear in the album’s lead single, ‘S.O.B.’ The infectious, up-tempo pieces instantly conjures thoughts of Little Willie John, The Temptations, and so many others from that era right from the song’s outset. The steady humming and clapping will have listeners do the same along with Rateliffe and company while happily tapping their feet in time, too. Rateliff’s gravelly vocal style makes the song even more enjoyable as he sings, “I’m gonna need someone to help me/I’m gonna need somebody’s hand/I’m gonna need someone to hold me down/I’m gonna need someone to care/I’m gonna writhe and shake my body/I’ll start pulling out my hair/I’m going to cover myself with the ashes of you and nobody’s gonna give a damn.” When one really takes the time to examine this verse (and the song’s second verse) the song really takes on a whole new identity. That is especially considering the driving energy exuded in the song’s verses and even more frantic energy released in the chorus. The combination of that varied energy and the song’s lyrical content leads one to interpret this song less as just an upbeat, radio ready single but something much deeper. Rather, the combination of said elements presents the song as one that presents a subject at the point of revelation, realizing that he (or she) has a problem. It is inferred that said problem is addiction via the song’s chorus in which Rateliff sings “Son of a b****/Give me a drink/Won’t more night/This can’t be me/Son of a b****/If I can’t get clean/I’m gonna drink my life away.” If this is indeed the case–that the song is centered on a person that is battling some personal demons–then the musical content set against such lyrics is an original approach to such a topic. One can almost see this person on the verge of going through withdrawal as he or she sings the noted lyrics. Of course this is all just the interpretation of this critic. Other listeners could easily make their own conclusions in hearing it for themselves. Speaking of which, audiences can hear it for themselves online now via the band’s official website http://www.nathanielrateliff.com. Regardless of the song’s true meaning it can be said that its ability to catch listeners’ ears, hold them from start to finish, and generate so much discussion around its mix of musical and lyrical content shows exactly why it is such a solid first taste of this record and an equally solid example of why the record in whole is one of the year’s best new albums overall.
‘S.O.B.’ shows via its combination of musical and lyrical content why it is such a solid example of how much Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ debut LP has to offer audiences. It is just one example, too. The album’s opener ‘I Need Never Get Old’ is another clear example of what the band’s new album has to offer. That is because even with its equally clear old school soul and r&B influences, it still stands out both musically and lyrically from ‘S.O.B.’ and the rest of the album’s remaining tracks. The use of the horns and drums set against the song’s guitar line harken back to legends such as The Temptations, Ray Charles, and The Four Tops just to name a few. Just as impressive is the fact that Rateliff shows he isn’t just a one trick pony in regards to his vocal style. His delivery here is much smoother yet still has just as much strength as is exhibited in ‘S.O.B.’ All things considered here, the musical content presented in this song shows even more the breadth of the band members’ collective talents and in turn shows even more just how much the band (and the album in whole) has to offer audiences. It’s just one part of the song that makes it so impressive, too. The song’s lyrical content must not be ignored. In regards to its lyrical content, the song comes across as something of an introspective piece that looks back in an almost celebratory fashion of a one-time love. That can be argued as Rateliff sings in the song’s lead verse, “Can we be there/Oh, just think of the time/Thought of love so strange/Said you never knew/While I try my best/To cover our eyes/It’s a common way to blame and hide the truth.” The song’s second verse serves that argument even more as he sings, “Taking our time/ah/Just standing in the rain/Meaning what you said/ah/And mean it to me/All of these lies/oh/And never again/Come on say it now/It’s a game.” It’s as if Rateliff (or his subject) is looking back on a past relationship and rather than being sad about what was, the subject opted to look back with a more positive outlook. That is driven home as he sings in the song’s verse, “I know that some will say it matters but little, babe/But come on and mean it to me/I need it so bad/I needed to try/I need to fail/I needed your love/I’m burning away/I need never get old.” It could be the wrong take but it seems almost like Rateliff’s subject is telling the other person that she(?) kept him young and how much she both meant and means to him. Yet again, this could be wholly off the mark. Though, it can be hoped that it is at least somewhere in the ballpark. If it is at least close, then it can be said that it is a rarely taken approach to such a subject. And in turn such approach makes the song all the more enjoyable and that much more of an example as to what Rateliff and company have to offer listeners on their new album. It is not the last example of how much this record has to offer audiences, either. ‘Look It Here,’ which comes late in the album’s sequence is one more strong example of how much this record has to offer audiences.
Both ‘S.O.B.’ and ‘I Need Never Get Old’ are clear examples of how much Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats have to offer audiences on their debut full-length studio recording. While both songs are clear, solid examples of how much it has to offer, there is still at least one more example that can be cited. That example comes late in the album’s sequence in the form of ‘Look It Here.’ This song boasts just as much classic soul and r&b influence as any of the album’s other songs including those previously noted here. What’s really interesting though, is that even with its old school influences, it also boasts a more modern style sound throughout its verses while that old school influence is more evident in the song’s chorus. The song’s steady 4/4 tempo and its pleading lyrics in which Rateliff’s subject sings, “Look it here baby I’m coming out/On my knees begging please/Look it here baby I’m calling out/Crying now hear me, hear me plead” is completely unlike other songs today of its kind, lyrically speaking. It isn’t one of those run-of-the-mill, oh-woe-is-me songs about lost love. Rather the band’s approach here brings about thoughts of James Brown. That is made even more clear as Rateliff sings in the song’s main verse, “I got a love so hard I can’t stand it/And with a heart so weak and abandoned/You’ll have to bury this man/And if that’s what it takes for a love that must be proved/Look it here baby I’m coming out/On my knees beggin’ please yea/Look it here baby there’s no one else/Come on now hear me out.” It would have been so easy for Rateliff and his band mates to take that easy route and make a standard song about lost love. Being that they didn’t, it makes this song stand out proudly as yet another example of what makes the band’s self-titled debut such a strong first effort. Audiences can hear the song for themselves online now via the band’s official website along with ‘S.O.B.’ at http://www.nathanielrateliff.com.
‘S.O.B., ‘I Need Never Get Old,’ and ‘Look It Here’ are all clear and solid examples of how much Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ self-titled debut record has to offer audiences. They are not the only songs included in the record that could be chosen as representatives for the record, either. Any one (or more) of the tracks included in this record could just as easily be used to exemplify just how enjoyable this collection of songs is from start to finish. That being the case, it can be said of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats that this album is one of the year’s most intriguing albums released so far this year as well as one of the year’s best new albums overall. It is available now in stores and online. Rateliff and company are currently touring in support of their new album and have a pair of dates scheduled in North Carolina on Tuesday and Wednesday November 10th and 11th in Carrboro and Asheville respectively. More information on the band’s debut album is available online now along with its current tour schedule and all of its latest news at:
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