Dead Men Tell No Tales takes a stripped-down turn with plaintive lyrical confessions as pretty as they are prescient, summoning Syd Barrett’s wild spirit through a séance of simple reverb burbles and acoustic incantations. Front-and-center vocals recounting love, loss, and death’s lurking presence are presented against airy guitar shimmer in a demented yin and yang seemingly forecasting the scarf-swathed, underground dandy man’s abrupt fall nearly 20 years later. In the midst of such weighty tomes are less downtrodden peeks into the studio, where Sudden and his Jacobites are caught on tape in a few joyful fits and starts, adding another complex layer to this celebrated post-punk.
In founding Swell Maps, the post-punk prefacing Birmingham art-snots, Nikki Sudden and his drumming brother Epic Soundtracks charted new territory for racket and corrosive guitar. But after folding Swell Maps at the dawn of the ’80s, Nikki Sudden plowed through another decade’s worth of terrifically fertile ground. Drawing on his devotion to the Rolling Stones and T. Rex—alongside guitarist Dave Kusworth as Jacobites, plus a cheekily named cohort of British sidemen—Nikki Sudden cut a string of raw, inspired rock ‘n’ roll records, etched with double edged travel melancholia and hard-bitten punk dejection.