The Apple Bed

Nick Heyward

Big Deal Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: George Agnos


I try to listen to a lot of different kinds of music and there are some I like and some I just don't get. But when it really comes right down to it, I always appreciate artists that can consistently write songs with strong melodies, thoughtful lyrics, and show imagination instrumentally. The Beatles were the masters of this winning combination, but it is sometimes hard to find artists that can provide all this without sounding deriative or retro.

Nick Heyward is one artist who has managed to pull off this feat with his latest release, The Apple Bed. If you were listening to pop/new wave music of the early 80's, you may remember his group, Haircut 100. Well, Heyward's songwriting has matured in much the same way as Andy Partridge of XTC. In fact, much of The Apple Bedmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 comes off sounding like a combination of late period XTC and middle period Beatles. While Heyward is obviously influenced by both of these groups, he has his own voice and makes this classic type of songwriting sound fresh again.

Take the opening song, "Stars In Her Eyes", which sounds like a straight rock version of the Beatles "She's Leaving Home" while still preserving the melancholy but hopefulness of a young girl starting a new chapter of her life. Or the next song, "In Every Place" which has the wistfulneness of Paul McCartney's best ballads, but with lyrics that show Heyward's own interpretation on the feeling of lost love. The lovely combination of jangly guitar, strings and piano recall the 80's band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

The XTC influences pop up on songs like "My Heavy Hand", "Just Like Sorrow", and "The Goodbye Man". All of these songs take a seriocomic look at lost love, making wry observations about failed relationships that mask a sense of regret by the singer. However, Heyward also writes straight ballads with melodies that just soar. "I Really Don't Know You" is affecting, but the one I like the best is "The Man You Used To Be", a stunning song about how the media builds up stars only to tear them down.

Heyward also produced The Apple Bed and effectively uses strings, horns, piano, acoustic and electric guitars to color his songs. He does include some straight rockers as well. "Today" and "Dear Miss Finland" has Heyward turning up the volume of his electric guitar while still retaining the melodicism and wittiness of his songwriting.

My one pet peeve on The Apple Bed is the appearance of three uncredited songs. Oh, I like the songs a lot, but I do not understand the purpose of hidden songs? I had to find their titles on the Internet. The first two, "3 Colours" and "Brightest Pearl", are the loosest rockers on the album and should have appeared earlier. The last song, "Beautiful Place", is a slightly Celtic sounding ballad that is a wonderful way to end to the album.

What is most amazing about The Apple Bed is that there is not one dud among Heyward's fifteen original songs. Some artists have trouble coming up with ten good songs. If you enjoy the classic pop rock of The Beatles, XTC, or were a fan of Haircut 100, The Apple Bed is a must have album.

Rating: A

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© 1999 George Agnos and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Big Deal Records, and is used for informational purposes only.