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Albums Of The Week: Nell & The Flaming Lips | Where The Viaduct Looms

The Okie oddballs help a Canadian teen make a Nick Cave tribute album. No, really.


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Nell & The Flaming LipsWhere the Viaduct Looms features nine Nick Cave covers with vocals and instrumentation by 14-year-old Nell Smith and instrumentation and production by The Flaming Lips.

This inspiring and heartwarming story begin when Smith, originally from Leeds, moved to Canada and met Wayne Coyne at the age of 12 at The Flaming Lips’ show at the 2018 Sled Island Festival in Calgary. Nell had already attended several Lips shows and was a regular at the front of the stage, dressed in a parrot costume and screaming out the band’s songs. Coyne noticed the kid in the parrot suit and sang a David Bowie cover directly to her at the show in Calgary, with Nell singing every word back. A musical bond formed, with Coyne staying in contact with Nell and her father Jude as she learned to play guitar. Their creative relationship began to flourish when she started to write her own songs.

When a planned trip to record with the band in Oklahoma had to be cancelled due to covid, Coyne suggested Nell record some Nick Cave songs and email them to Oklahoma to be backed by the band. Coyne chose Cave because Nell didn’t know him and wouldn’t have preconceived notions as to how to sing the songs. The first track they recorded was a cover of Girl In Amber, the video of which Nell shared late last year.

Speaking about the collaboration, Coyne comments: “It’s always great to meet excited, young creative people. With Nell, we could see she is on a journey and thought it would be fun to join her for a while and see if we could get things going. It was a great way to connect with her and help harness her cool attitude to making music.”

Nell comments: “I still can’t really believe it. It was a really steep learning curve but Wayne was so encouraging when I was struggling with a few of the songs that I kept going. I hadn’t heard of Nick Cave but Wayne suggested that we should start with an album of his cover versions, and then look at recording some of my own songs later. It was cool to listen and learn about Nick Cave and pick the songs we wanted to record.”

In a pleasing addition to the tale, the great man himself has given his seal of approval to the collaboration. Alerted to the cover by a fan, Nick Cave took to his website The Red Hand Files to write: “This version of Girl in Amber is just lovely, I was going to say Nell Smith inhabits the song, but that’s wrong, rather she vacates the song, in a way that I could never do,” said Cave. “I always found it difficult to step away from this particular song and sing it with its necessary remove, just got so twisted up in the words, I guess. Nell shows a remarkable understanding of the song, a sense of dispassion that is both beautiful and chilling. I just love it. I’m a fan.”

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