Despite an affable, flannel-clad exterior, singer Bobby Long has revealed, in a new video for his song, "Nautical," a twisted side.
Long, now based in New York, hails originally from Wigan, a large town just outside the former economic powerhouse of Manchester. Its a region known for nurturing fine musicians: The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Joy Division and New Order, The Buzzcocks, Oasis, The Fall and The Verve are all associated with northern England's largest city.
A lot of what the above-mentioned groups have given the world is, mostly, variations of post-punk – a noticeable contrast with Long, whose music is a few shades lighter. His new album, Sultans, while less folky than its predecessors, still carries the upbeat mood of his previous work. Undercutting the album's generally sunny vibe, though, is the unsettling video for "Nautical," a languid seductive track that's one part Marvin Gaye and one part Dan Auerbach.
Bobby Long: "Nautical" (Official Music Video) - Sultans Album Out Now www.youtube.com
The video's narrative bears a strong resemblance to Stephen King's novel, Misery, wherein a novelist is held captive by an obsessed fan - only in this iteration, it's Long who plays the crazed kidnapper; the object of his adoration is Jack Dawson, Long's real-life friend and the producer of Sultans. As the down-tempo track — all ride cymbal and underwater electric piano — spools out lazily, we see Long incapacitate the hapless Dawson with an injection from a syringe. He wakes to find himself chained up inside a sparsely lit, filthy trailer, whose interior could be described as "serial killer chic."
An increasingly frantic opera of captivity follows as Long, dressed like a dumpy 1980s Silicon Valley programmer in a button shirt, vest, pleated slacks and coke-bottle glasses, "encourages" the frightened Dawson to perform, thrusting a guitar into his trembling hands; a species of concert is eventually put on in front of an audience of mannequins, spookily arranged in the amber, swirling dust of the trailer.
As Long explained to Billboard.com, the "Nautical" video came from his interest in puncturing the somber image he'd thus far cultivated as a folk-oriented singer-songwriter. A story featuring forced injection, abduction, and psychotic fixation may seem an unconventional way to do that, but the video is only macabre-light — Long's wholesome persona remains firmly intact. Perhaps, in the end, Long couldn't bring himself to pantomime doing anything too extreme to his longtime friend and collaborator (like re-enacting Misery's leg-breaking scene, for instance), even for the sake of art.
Say what you will about his commitment to the role of deranged abductor: Long's dedication to his own art is inarguable. Sultan is a lovingly crafted album that rattles pleasantly with the fuzz and jangle of guitar, the shimmer of keyboard, the thump of room-microphoned drums, and Long's soulful croon, that never slides into the overly earnest or insipid.
Matt Fink lives and works in Brooklyn. For more of his work go to organgrind.com.
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