How She Almost Became My Buggles: (Part II)
The untold story of a lost debaclyptic segment
Emma Louise “Scout” Niblett first came to my attention for the best reason of all: marketing. A silly name gets you places. And, by all accounts, Niblett is her real last name. Her music, I’ll admit, is not all that spectacular. Pretty minimalist. But I listen quite a lot. Most of the songs are just her on drums or guitar (or both – see pic 2 below) as she warbles and howls away. The comparisons are usually made to Cat Power, but since I only starting listening to Cat Power because I read that she sounded like Scout, I don’t find the resemblance too edifying.
I’ll totally understand if you don’t like her. She’s not for everyone. She’s earnest and cute, but some of her lyrics are pretty adolescent, her modulation between soft girlish quaver and wildchild scream can be formulaic, and, as the ButterNugget fashion critic pointed out, her personal sense of style borrows a tad heavily from bike messenger chic. Hey, shut up. She’s my would-be imaginary girlfriend, not yours. You don’t have to imaginary date her.
I think I’m a sucker for her lyrics. There are certain kinds of sappy, crappy images and phrasings that I am easy prey to. I think it’s commonly known as the Hair Metal Paradox – that seeming contradiction that causes the Youth Gone Wild to turn to mush when someone plays “I Remember You.” So when Scout serves up some cliché of young love (“And we drove across the bridge / And we missed the exit / For Treasure Island / But I was so excited / Just to be in your car / Oh fuck Treasure Island / Oh fuck Treasure Island") or makes some statement that is so matter-of-fact that it’s almost ridiculous (“And truth be told / I don’t recall / The moment you body became exquisite to me") I tend to listen. Why? Hmmmm. Why?
Though it’s probably best that I don’t, I have to admit that part of the attraction is also that her voice goes from shy schoolgirl to feral lithium patient at the drop of a hat. I know, I know. All you little Freuds out there can stop pointing me towards the couch, I'm well aware of all the perversions that come when the quiet girl next door meets Linda Blair. Keep in mind that Ms. Niblett is actually older than me. Why aren’t you calling that cradle robber a big ol’ howling perv?
Scout at Schuba's...playing guitar at the drums for some reason
I’d like to add a bit about the actual show. I got to see Scout Niblett this past Friday at Schuba’s. Scout was good. Not great. Part of the problem was that it started slow (basically the first few songs she sang were the slower, non-screamy ones, plus the band right before her, Nethers, was slow, moody crap). When she finally sat down to the drums to sing “Pom Poms” ("Does anyone know a cute girl with some pom poms?/'Cos everyone needs someone to spell out their name" – move over Bob Dylan!), things started to pick up nicely. If the shitty ass mics didn’t keep going off it might have been awesome. I could have done without her shaggy, hippie occasional drummer who she introduced as Devendra. I think that was an inside joke of some sort.
A screamy one
For those of you who prefer freaky guys to petite bike messenger singers, the opening act was a sight to behold. Tim Fite can, I suppose, be described as alt-country with a hint of twangy rap. He sang moderately sensical songs about trying to find love and setting barns on fire because he heard the cows laughing at him. Real universal stuff. But it ain’t about the music.
His shtick was worth the price of admission. Tim is, well, the ButterNugget music editor said it best, Appalachian-looking. He played guitar and sang with movement and expressions that were so spastic and inbred that one wondered if it were possible for Joe Cocker and Sling Blade to have a lovechild.
See what I mean?
Meanwhile his brother sat on some milk crates and pressed buttons on a laptop. The laptop controlled video which was projected onto a screen behind them. The screen is where the awesome lived. The video clips were of Tim Fite sitting in a wheelchair on the far left of the frame in front of an empty white background. He was playing an instrument, guitar or keyboard depending on the song, and singing in synch with the song being played live. On the screen he incorporated all the tics and vacant stares of his moonshine-soaked autistic persona. Honestly, even though we were all worried that the Tim on screen might run off-camera and start banging his head against the wall, he was much easier to watch that than it was to stare too long at the in-person Tim Fite.
The prevailing theory was that this was pure performance art, especially considering that he seemed relatively normal when he was packing up his guitar and he carefully put on overalls over his ill-fitting, West Virginia Sunday-best suit immediately after leaving the stage. No matter. There was something about him that made his every move socially awkward and maximally disconcerting. Anyone who has seen the movie Chuck and Buck knows that kind of observer discomfort. Still, it was entertaining and I’d see him again. Just as long as he stays away from my imaginary rock star non-girlfriend.