The chances of Naked Six actually being as special as they’re being billed to be is extremely slim. There’s every possibility in the world for them to be good, but as far as shooting a shot way too early goes, dubbing this ‘the most exciting, accomplished debut album to emerge from British shores in too long’ makes the same hollow knock as a band claiming an album is their most personal to date, or that they really took risks with their new one. Sure, it’s admirable to want to speak that level of confidence into the universe, but it’s also necessary to be realistic, and when there hasn’t been a tonne of hype around Lost Art Of Conversation – save for perhaps any that could be generated by a few high-profile production and mixing credits – it’s tough to see how Naked Six are really going to rocket their way to their top and meet those goals when there seems to be so much against them.
And that somewhat unfairly colours how Lost Art Of Conversation turns out, especially when for what turns out to be a serviceable but not-all-that-special garage-rock album already doesn’t have a whole lot it can do with the sound the band have given themselves. But even then, it’s hard to call this all this egregious at the same time, as Naked Six do have an ear for a more focused and potent brand of raucousness that simply making as much noise with as little tact as possible. The noise is definitely a factor here, but at least Naked Six can do something with it, and even though this isn’t a particularly exceptional album, all things considered, there’s still enough to like and appreciate all the same.
Granted, there’s definitely a trying streak when making that evident as far as Lost Art Of Conversation is concerned, as Naked Six develop a bad habit of leaning into the grubby perennial toilet-circuit fodder of a band like The Virginmarys in a production style that really does them no favours. Considering Thomas Mitchener’s production CV has such incendiary acts as Gallows and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes on it, it’s slightly disappointing to hear boisterous lad-rock tones akin to Slaves show up on Song Of The City and especially Sticky Gum, with a guitar tone that has the same grimy jangling quality that’s never sounded all that good, and compression of Seb Byford’s voice that only doubles down on the image of a band looking to rope in a very specific brand of unadventurous rock fan – again, think The Virginmarys, or territory you’d expect to be occupied by the likes of Stereophonics or Gerry Cinnamon. And while that would be enough for any sound mind to write this off completely, the glimmers of hope do make an impression overall. Get past the unflattering production and Byford is a decent singer as far as half-steps into a punk sneer go, and when they go a bit grittier and louder like on Split or bring in winding saxophone passages on the likes of 21st Century Brawl or Peace By The Pistol, the darker Brit-punk atmosphere is much more well-rounded and interesting. It also helps that Naked Six clearly have a wider musical repertoire than might appear on the surface; a track like Outside Looking In might feel like a token, Oasis-ish slow-burn, but the touches of psychedelia and even the slightest hints of prog that have been tightly woven in give it a lot more longevity and intrigue. Where a lot of bands of this stripe feel as though they’re scratching a basic, surface-level itch (and half the time, they aren’t even doing that well), Naked Six do have more dimensionality to them as a band, even if they’re not the most open to showing it off all the time.
The same could probably be said about the lyrics, maybe even more pertinently, at that. Of course, an album with a title like Lost Art Of Conversation is bound to have a least a few moments of technophobic boomer fodder about how this generation should all get off their phones and enjoy life – something that’s driven in all the harder by the fact that it’s the title track – but when that’s flipped into condemnations of cultures of self-obsession and perceived yet unquestionably flawed notions of invincibility behind a mask on Grapevine Telegraph and Split respectively, it’s genuinely quite nice to see a band of this stripe engaging with their material as much as this. What’s more, touching on mental health and the need for widespread compassion is done with a good amount of nuance and thought, and even if it’s nothing all that revolutionary, it’s nice to see Naked Six making an attempt to be more than the sum of their parts yet again, and coming out relatively strong on the other side.
There’s still a way to go before any of this is entirely essential, but for defying expectations and not totally floundering in the wake of the grandstanding affixed to them, Naked Six do actually come out with something good here, even if at this point in time they could afford to do a little more. A fresher sound would definitely benefit them, as would a keener lyrical focus that trims away some unnecessary fat, but Lost Art Of Conversation is a solid debut all the same, with enough ideas to make it worth keeping an eye on and the level of appeal to court a crowd that’ll undoubtedly find their new favourite band somewhere in here. It’s probably a bit early to suggest if that will go further beyond that certain crowd, but Naked Six do have a good deal to offer for what they’re bringing, and for as much apprehension that could’ve arisen from them as there is, that’s a nice enough surprise on the whole.
For fans of: The Virginmarys, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Slaves
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Lost Art Of Conversation’ by Naked Six is released on 6th March on Silver Lining Music.