For a few months last year, part of my record-buying routine involved flipping through the Ns, looking for some quasi-official New York Dolls releases. By the time I got to the end of the section, I knew I was out of luck–no Red Patent Leather or Paris Le Trash, just the same two records by The Nude Party, a band I’d never given a second thought to because of … well, their name. Fast-forward to lunch with some friends when I was caught off guard by a song playing over the restaurant’s speakers. Just above the happy hour din I heard something both unmistakable and unfamiliar. The song moved along with the rhythmic chug the Velvet Underground had perfected by White Light/White Heat; the dirty blues riff and gang backing vocals recalled The Stones’ basement tapes from Villa Nellcôte. I had no choice but to Shazam the song. Of course– “Feels Alright” by The Nude Party. On the way home, I stopped by the record store and picked up the two albums I’d dismissed all summer long.
Those records– The Nude Party (2018) and Midnight Manor (2020)– are near-perfect swoons of shambolic, cocksure rock n’ roll. Their exuberance makes sense—The Nude Party is a New York-via-North Carolina sextet who has given themselves over to the cause, sharing a farmhouse in the Catskills. Nearly ten years in, The Nude Party is a way of life. Now the band returns with their third full-length, Rides On (New West). This time around, the band chose to produce the record themselves, with some help from engineer Matthew Horner, who turned the band’s barn into a recording studio. This liberating setup gave the band the time to arrive at new material unscripted and unpolished.
Yet the results are The Nude Party’s most accomplished songs to date. The band still moves, but Rides On is the band’s headphones album, elemental, relaxed, and layered, with occasional shocks of glam and gutter. The production’s warmth reflects much of the album’s celebration of vitality and persistence. Yes, there’s lead track “Word Gets Around”, an acerbic jab at scenester shit-talking (the near-dead pan delivery of “I control what you hear” is chilling), and the swamp paranoia of Dr. John’s “Somebody’s Tryin’ to Hoodoo Me”, but elsewhere, this is music for hard times, the band finding reasons to live.
“Cherry Red Boots”, a girl group strut complete with dramatic Shadow Morton strings and a bass’d-out doo wop refrain, delivers salvation in the form of knee-highs with heels like rolls of dimes. The VU-inflected title track discovers common ground among an old vaquero, a 95-year-old supermarket greeter, and a rock n’ roll band. Against all odds and popular opinion, they persevere for the love of their task. “Hard Times (All Around)” explores the kinship and empathy that arise through mutual suffering. Calamity in Tennessee begets calamity in New York, which begets calamity in California, and so forth across the map. There’s a reassurance in these shared struggles that leads to a realization: “It gets better over time.”
The Nude Party reminds us again that while rock n’ roll’s vocabulary is irreducible, its power and appeal don’t depend upon total reinvention. Sea changes and new technologies threaten erasure, yet a return to the initial spark is inevitable. Pick your resurrection–The Stones, The Velvet Underground, The Shangri-La’s, or The Nude Party– and ride on.