KIDS IN A GHOST TOWN (DELUXE VERSION)
Released on October 22, 2021 (Nestor); Deluxe edition released on September 30, 2022 (Napalm Records)
Where to start, where to start… I suspect for those like myself we will need to tickle Nestor’s backstory a bit, which after some basic internet searching seems to have the same handful of quotes pertaining to the band consisting of their formation in the late 80’s, subsequent disappearance from the biz and then their “reuniting” and in 2021 releasing their debut long play Kids In A Ghost Town independently with a small to medium blip on the ole’ musical radars. Fast forward a year and like others currently, the band gets signed to Napalm Records and “re-issues” their year old album, in a number of tasty packages (vinyl, box sets, etc) and with the addition of three new songs. More on those later!
At first glance, and then this first impression is cemented by the band’s official video release of “On The Run”, they look cool. There are gobs of period specific drip, battle vests at the ready and the nostalgia meters cranked to 11. The video is reminiscent, visually of the epic efforts by Eskimo (Electric) Callboy sans wigs in the band’s promo photo, however, the band members are fully wigged out in the video and slathering on the 80’s references, images and wait for it, sounds as well. Yep, Nestor, not only look the part but they are full on purveyors of 80’s musical prowess, professionalism and pointed nods to the bands that paved the roads Nestor drops their collective clutches in their IROC on and does a massive smoke showing burn out into the present.
As we crack into this 14 pack of MGD, I mean songs, I’ll skip the first pressing versus the current as I have not heard the 2021 version of Kids In A Ghost Town, so I have no comparable from a production standpoint. That disclaimer in place after the initial immersion into Nestor’s debut, the prognosis is positive. The production is period correct and perfectly mixed. Arena rock heaven on a silver platter and in that same tangent, let’s move into the songs. Be prepared for far too many references to yesterdays gone by as Nestor’s style is no joke straight out of the 80’s in every way and in the best possible way.
Kids In A Ghost Town starts off with a curious, albeit atypical movie-esque introduction painting a picture for some form of incident having transpired ala police radio, setting the stage for the true albums opener “On the Run”, which sneaks in with a fluffy keyboard intro that segues into the opening guitar riff. It reminds one of the epic Lion‘s Kal Swan and Doug Aldrich, and then settles into an AOR dream song. Soaring lead vocals, layered gang chorus and an equal mix of distorted rhythmic guitar and keys, this one is a toe taping, head bobbing arena rocker very akin to Journey, Giant and a number of others.
The title track follows with a tasty little teaser that shreds into the song’s main riff for a few bars before the rest of the band jumps in and takes the listener through the chorus riff and then into the verse. It’s another mid-tempo arena rocker that has a good many comparables or influences, but I take away a huge helping of Whitesnake with an equal smattering of Bryan Adams (mostly in the pre-chorus and chorus sections). The solo, although lighting quick and equally short, shows a proficiency many wish to acquire. During the chorus, “Kids in a ghost town”, I can’t help but sing another artist’s song, “Ghost town”. Keeping the AOR/arena rock theme on full, “Stone Cold Eyes” has a monster chorus that is equally catchy as it is infectious and I triple dog dare you not to get sucked into singing along after a handful of seconds. Tobias, along with the rest of Nestor in-cants everything Journey on this one and the sans music choral arrangement and key change are nice touches that screams 80’s rock. This is a favorite thus far and the held note(s) in the song’s outro is a strong touch.
“These Days” has a darker key arrangement and the same patterned rocking guitar riffs partnered with an 80’s staple, the cowbell during the verse. We get dangerously close to something proggy in the pre-solo break, but that just spotlights the musical proficiency and craftsmanship of song Nestor is sharing with the listener. “These Days” could easily slip into a movie soundtrack alongside Kenny Loggins and you’d not be the wiser, but you’d be appreciative of the inclusion. “Tomorrow” breaks the cycle to this point with an acoustic piano paired with Tobias’ amazing voice (there are very subtle underlying keys that accompany, but don’t detract). The reset of the band kicks in as we move into the next set of verses and at this point, we get a massive nostalgic gut punch where as the 80’s goddess herself, Samantha Fox takes the lead vocal! She sounds great and fits the song quite well. She and Tobias trade leads and harmonize well with each other throughout the remainder of the song. Many AOR aficionados should be losing their collective shtuff over this one.
“Signed In Blood” is next, a “new” song that begins with a strong vocal only chorus, followed by a “Shot In The Dark” (Jake E Lee) inspired riff taking us into the first verse and beyond. The chorus is a nicety with the chorus’ outro bringing this Jake E Lee riff back for a moment. This one has a gob of Bon Jovi nods, along with some Bad English alongside the staple Journey/Giant nods. The solo however goes into full on Nuno Bettencourt mode, with rapid fire shredding, harmonic sweeps and some well thought out keyboard accompaniments. Strong song of that I am sure.
At the album’s mid-point, we are presented with “Perfect 10 (Eyes Like Demi Moore)” that begins with a low tempo’d guitar solo, vocal and then a verse that is a simple combination of drums and vocals that allows the guitar to enter in verse two. This song incorporates a great amount of the song stylings from the 80’s, but for me, this one is an amalgamation of Journey and Bon Jovi, depending upon where you are in the song. The solo break seems a little out of place and forced compared to the flow of the song and I hate to say it, the first half should have been left on the cutting room flow as it interrupts the song’s overall flow.
The cover of Whitney Houston’s mega hit “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, although a creative interpretation when AOR’d, is a deep track bonus at best and it is one of the three added songs for the re-issue. The last of the bonus tracks is “A Losing Game”, which starts nice and low keyed before the lead riff bops you in the forehead and we again enter familiar arena rock territory with a key driven soaring verse and a million layered chorus that is equal parts heavy, heartfelt, yet soft and most importantly infectious. This one’s solo suffers from the same misstep as “Perfect 10” — no rub to showcasing the prowess of the two players — as the music drop out that focuses on the guitar then leads into a more traditional fitting solo just seems forced. “We Are Not OK” is a slower tempo cigarette lighter ballad, with slower and emotionally fueled verses and a driven, powerful chorus, that would get the arena singing along and waving their, now, cell phones in the air. Tobias and band still hold and show their OG influences herein, however there is an uncanny Michael Bolton vocal that pairs nicely with Tobias’ Steve Perry styling.
“Firesign”, which is a “Stay Awake All Night” from Krokus inspired hard rocker, focusing on guitar first and second, keys third is in your maw, uptempo and awesome. The limited solo and song’s natural break only make this one near perfect. “1989” steps back into Nestor’s comfort zone, starting up temp and then settling into Tobias’ vocals first with light keys and rhythm guitar before the rest of the gang chimes in and we fall into the chorus, of which is as saccharine sweet as anything. I really like the chorus, “It feels like an allusion, 1989!” Very catchy. The ”1989” solo feels hand plucked by the Neil Schon himself and could have easily fit into “Don’t Stop Believin'” — not a bad thing — but a nice nod to the old guard while showing off Jonny‘s skills.
“It Ain’t Me” begins with a film snippet (no spoiler here, sorry) and then crashes in with drums, keys and guitar a plenty to abruptly stop and feature again some acoustic piano and Tobias’ vocals only to carry the first verses to again introduce the drums and guitars to support the next verses and chorus. All of which are on par with Journey’s “Open Arms” with a sprinkling of “Separate Ways”. Jonny’s solo is quite tastefully placed and played here; all of us armchair guitarists will take notes throughout the album. The song closes with the acoustic piano stylings of Mr. Frejinger again paired with Tobias’ voice providing a poignant ending to a solid song and long play.
Summarizing Nestor’s style via comparisons has me a little out of my comfort zone as although I enjoy some nice fluffy key driven AOR, it is not my first or second choice when staring at the wall of CDs. The band hearkens comparisons to a few obvious and well known artists from the 80’s. I hear many, but the low hanging fruit comparisons are Journey, Bryan Adams, Giant, Bad English, Michael Bolton, Bon Jovi and then I get a heaping helping of bands like Lion, Europe and newer acts H.E.A.T and a hundred other new wave of Scandinavian AOR bands that are signed to F…, well you know who.
All in all, color me impressed, not surprised, but pleased with the debut offering from Nestor. It is a very solid album, pulling the nostalgia strings, but not in a kitsch way, but done so correctly, with style, grace and two heaping helpings of skill. Also of note, the re-issue comes in a number of tasty formats, packagings and price points, I have my eye on the box set — nudge nudge, wink wink — but I am sure this well thought out re-issue Napalm Records has done will soon be on many collectors shelves.
01. A Fanfare For The Reliable Rebel (Intro)
02. On The Run
03. Kids In A Ghost Town
04. Stone Cold Eyes
05. These Days
06. Tomorrow (feat. Samantha Fox)
07. Signed In Blood (Bonus track)
08. Perfect 10 (Eyes Like Demi Moore)
09. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Bonus track)
10. A Losing Game (Bonus track)
11. We Are Not OK
14. It Ain’t Me
Jonny Wemmenstedt – guitar
Mattias Carlsson – drums
Tobias Gustavsson – vocals
Marcus Åblad – bass
Martin Frejinger – keyboards
Reviewed by Terry Martinson for Sleaze Roxx, October 2022
Nestor‘s “Signed In Blood” video:
Nestor‘s “On The Run” video: