Each week, we’ll take a retrospective look on albums which we think are either criminally underrated or woefully overrated, and why they actually rock/suck.
An album that slipped so under the radar that its creator admits it made no money is surely a perfect candidate for an underrated gem – assuming of course that it’s any good. And is it ever.
Released in 1979, Nosferatu brings together ex-Stranglers frontman and guitarist Hugh Cornwell with ex-Captain Beefheart drummer Robert Williams and finds the most brilliantly Gothic midpoint between the pair’s old bands. Inspired by the 1922 film of the same name, it’s as catchy and playful as it is dark and conceptual, all with an underlying sense of the genuinely bizarre. ‘Big Bug’ relates trans-Russian trains with insects crawling across leaves, ‘Losers In A Lost Land’ is about failed actors and ‘Irate Caterpillar’ reads like an alien describing their first live gig. Cornwell’s lyrics really do check all the boxes (if you’re as weird as I am).
There are also some top-notch guest appearances. Devo’s Mothersbaugh brothers star alongside the stumbling percussion of ‘Rhythmic Itch’ and Ian Dury (under the pseudonym ‘Duncan Poundcake’) handles backing vocals as a fairground barker in ‘Wrong Way Round’, a love song of sorts about a woman who’s “built the wrong way round, but it’s the right way for me”.
Musically, there’s everything from horror-punk to jerky new-wave, Gothic-rock to fairground tunes. It’s a conceptual masterpiece pulled off with aplomb. Special credit has to go to Robert Williams’s drumming, which blends effortlessly with the horror theme of the album, it seems only right that he turned into an irate caterpillar himself while recording his drum tracks. This album is a gripping listen for fans of punk, post-punk, Gothic or experimental music – just don’t eat any cheese before you play it.