FULL DISCLOSURE is important here: Because I'm a new Scout Niblett fan and haven't spent much time with her older music, I'm only going to tell you what I know. Which is her live show and her new record, Kidnapped by Neptune, which I've played through thick and thin, hard days and better ones. I'm not going to talk about wigs or costumes or go off on what her stage presence "says" or anything else you can get in most any music magazine worldwide.
First, the record. Kidnapped by Neptune is played mainly as a guitar/drums power duo. Scout growls, shouts, and makes her guitar scream and spit hemorrhaging power chords. The drummer beats the holy hell out of his kit. It's unbridled and heavy, but it also has range. Some tracks stomp like minimalist Black Sabbath while others are all ominous quiet and impending savagery; "impending" because as the record moves forward we're never sure when—or if—the heaviness is going to jump out and thrash us senseless. Sometimes it does; sometimes a hushed doomy whisper is just that. But the menacing presence is always there, circling like a shark below our bare, kicking feet. Will it flick its tail and swim away? Or will it lash out and pull us into the sun-filtered depths?
This sense of danger and unpredictability is what makes the album so good. First listen, you're hit by metal guitar and drums, but then it's handclapped rhythms and a refrain chanting, "C'mon honey, what are you doing to me" sing-songed, self-harmonized with, and repeated until repetition becomes mantric, and the mantra becomes pleading. Or it rocks again. Or drops off into yowling solo electric guitar as black as the CD's packaging. (It's all surprises, but it's also cohesive. Order and balance in the storm's eye.)
Scout's from England but she lives here now. Whether she's puddle jumping and en route to someplace else is to be seen, but having her around is a good thing because it means shows, local shows, not just fly-by-night, road-weary tour stopovers.
Last time Scout played Portland was a few months ago at Doug Fir with Talkdemonic and LKN. She opened with an unaccompanied version of the Cars' "Just What I Needed," which was tense, restrained, and perfect. And she played with a drummer, then solo again, then solo but on drums while singing, mixing it up as the 40 or so minutes rolled along. But it didn't really roll. More so, it smacked. It slapped, pushed, and beat out feisty, jagged, fragments of hard rock that were both raging and playful.
It's a testament to Scout's artistic depth that she can do both, and make it work—a rare occurrence in rock 'n' roll, where things aren't supposed to be black and white, but—in all honesty—are usually just one or the other. You should really go to this show—or at least buy the record. I am totally confident in vouching for both.