The Mystery of Nigel G Lowndes

Must have been about fifteen or so years ago, random folk in a pub told me they were off to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was surprised to hear it was still going, and had it in my head its writer, Richard O’Brien had passed away. I pointed this out, and they refuted the fact. Someone pulled a mobile phone out their pocket and, in a flash, proved me wrong. With a virtual reference library at one’s fingertips the lively debate which would’ve, in previous times, circulated around the boozer, was kaput, the potential conversation starter settled, and the pub fell silent.

In the interest of truth, provided it’s a trustworthy source, fact checking is no bad thing. Obviously, I wished no malice on Mr O’Brien, just an incorrect piece of trivia I’d picked up. But it was the first time it occurred to me, sadly, as well as the art of spreading urban myths, we live in an era where any mystery is immediately solved. I mean, loads of money was wasted hoping to find the Loch Ness Monster, but if an Android app actually proves it either way, the myth is ruined. Bristol-based Nigel G Lowndes nails this unfortunate reality in the title track of new album, Hello Mystery.

But whoa, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Mystery is the eighth track of this varied ten track show, released tomorrow (26th March 21.) To commence at the beginning, the direct boomer, Boring screams Talking Heads at me, and I’m left thinking this is going to be an easy ride, one comparison to art-pop and I’m done. But, oh no, far from it. And it’s all because Nigel is a one-man variety show. To conclude there’s elements of tongue-in-cheek loungeroom and easy listening, akin to Richard Cheese or The Mike Flowers Pops, although there largely is, is not to have listened till end, where the finale Always Leaving London, is an acute folk-rock acoustic masterwork.

Track-by-track then is the best method to sum up this highly entertaining album. As I’ve mentioned you’ll start by contemplating he’s a 21st century Talking Heads without the punk edge of the era. But the second song, Tell me Tomorrow would confirm this if it wasn’t so much more vaudeville than the risky titled Boring, (as all of it is far from boring) but it’s becoming clear not to take Nigel too seriously.

When a relationship breakdown, caused by the partner’s affection for some critter-like pets he buys for her is the subject matter for the third, bluegrass parodied song, Furry Little Vampires, it’s become laugh-out-loud funny. Country and doo-wop merge afterwards, but the fifth track, Bubble, has a Casio keyboard samba rhythm with a floating romance theme. What are you doing to me, Nigel?!

As randomly foodie based as Streetband’s Toast, we’re back to uplifting art-pop with the very British notion a cup of tea will sort all your problems out, even psychosis. But random as this is, White Roses, which follows, is a more sombre nod to Nigel’s appreciation of country. Stand alone, it’s a gorgeous ballad; Nigel recognises the need to know the rules in order to break them. As he does by the very next song; Shoes follows country-rock again, but with a sillier, nonsensical subject.

The album plays out on the country tip, its influence seems to build throughout. The aforementioned obituary to mystery is as wonderful in thoughtful narrative as a country classic, and then we’re treated to Always Leaving London. Despite its skipping variety, nothing on Hello Mystery will, as the beguiling opening track shouts, bore you, that much I can guarantee.

If you’re looking for dopily swaying while holding your elongated black and sapphire dyed fringe under your hoody, as a melancholic indie-rock icon miserably recites his teenage anguish with a whining semitone through his nose, then avoid this. For everyone else, Nigel G Lowndes is very worthy of your attention; a sparkly beacon of showbiz, more surprising than a contemporary David Byrne with a Stetson, and when it comes to diversity, it puts The Mike Flowers Pops back on the shelf in the garden centre. Hello Mystery is as it says on the tin, and for this I give it full marks. Johnny Cash pastiche meets Tonight at the London Palladium; love it!


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Spotify Link to Nigel’s singles from the album, released tomorrow, 26th March 2021.


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The New Society of Devizes

If you drop into the old Tourist Information centre in the Market Place these days, you’ll get much more than a leaflet on the Caen Hill Locks.

The owner, Steve, greeted the better half and I by the stairs, outgoing but with a shattered expression. The word on the street is out, in an unmissable location, cafe-lounge-bar New Society puts the old building to exceptional good use. It talked the talk, receiving rave posts on social media, and as passing by I witnessed it bustling on Saturday night, I’d be fool not to give it a lunchtime stab and see if walks the walk.

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Anything new in Devizes attracts initial attention, the issue is maintaining interest. Staff at New Society have been working tirelessly for the past fortnight to ensure it lives up to first impressions, yet they show no sign of tetchiness when it comes to serving you. Combine this family-styled friendliness with an extensive menu, reasonable prices and this beautiful bespoke setting, New Society is everything they say it is, and more.

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It sits somewhere between high-end restaurant and archetypal pub, matching the restaurants for quality but the latter for worth, but does so enthusiastically and cordially. It’s also extremely diverse; tapas on the menu, and coffee bubbling, there’s an element of Mediterranean in ethos, but open for a cooked breakfast, decor decidedly quaint pub, plus the bar resembles a wine bar running through to the evening, it’s fundamentally local too.

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Vegan Breakfast

Yet you’ll see no noses in the air, or sawdust under a ragged pool table, it’s as if New Society has melded the pros of all these types of establishments and scrapped the cons.

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I could’ve randomly stuck a pin in the menu, between said tapas, burger menu and omelette bar, it consists largely of every pub grub classic you could hope for, but refined; sandwiches and toasties, fish n chips, ribeye steaks, mac & cheese, Caesar salad, etc. Coupled with a similar desert selection, and from beers, ciders, cocktails and wine to tea, coffee and milkshakes, there’s something for all, including vegans and children. Mrs Devizine is often impatient to my lengthy menu browsing, and worried I’d spend an eon or three interrogating this varied one, I opted for a pub classic, chicken tikka masala, post-haste. She went for an omelette.

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This was our hoard, the other photos I’ve just borrowed, didn’t eat them all, but I could’ve!

But where the menu isn’t exactly exotic, hot dang (can I say hot dang in a serious food review; who cares?) if it didn’t taste far beyond that of standard pub grub. The tucker was presented nicely, to match the surroundings, and tasted equally as mouth-watering. Ingredients of excellent quality, my curry served with pilau rice was simply gorgeous, fresh pulled chicken, spiced beautifully and with a naan toasted to perfection. Home-cooked, these guys don’t know what a microwave is. The wife agreed, her omelette was fluffy, and chips to die for. To take two rather standard pub grub dishes and make them something rather special makes this alone the perfect lunch location.

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Not to mention we were sat next to a brilliant stained-glass window depicting the Devizes crest; the advantages of taking over the tourist information centre, I guess, but without the need to go in there, I’d never seen it before, had to take a snap! There’s a selection of comfy sofa seated areas, and traditional tables spread over a ground floor and two smaller rooms upstairs, all exceptionally welcoming and easy-going, just like the atmosphere. There was a sense in the air that New Society is excitingly innovative, interestingly middle-ground, and will become a standard for others to aspire to. It’s quickly become a hub in town, now I know why.

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