Legend has it that in the pre-internet days a certain RPM writer (who shall remain nameless for the purpose of this review) would trick his long-suffering wife into driving him all across the UK to watch bands she’d never heard of, and would never like, by playing her mixtapes of AOR bands he knew she would love, claiming they were the band he wanted to see. Needless to say, mid-gig said spouse would normally turn to the writer saying something like “these sound nothing like that tape you did me” to which he would quickly reply “I think they must have changed musical direction since the last album.”
That my colleague got away with this routine on numerous occasions still makes me chuckle to this very day.
So why am I mentioning this here? Well, Swedish soft rockers Nestor are actually like Dom’s (oops) wife’s ultimate revenge band, having embraced quite a few different musical genres along the way, before finally emerging from out of the Covid haze in early 2021 with a trio of gloriously OTT videos soundtracked by some jaw dropping AOR tunes. Songs that immediately had those of us in the know reaching for our air keytars.
The brainchild of one Tobias Gustavsson who now goes by the name of Ironlord ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’ contains ten glorious songs (and an intro) that sound like they were purpose built for the soundtrack to a long lost eighties action film, and when I say this I certainly don’t mean it as a put down. Think King Kobra ‘Thrill of A Lifetime’, Stan Bush And Barrage’s self-titled album, or Icon’s ‘Night of The Crime’ and you won’t be a million miles away from what awaits you when you get your copy of ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’.
I must admit there was an initial doubt in my mind that this might all be some elaborate joke especially when on top of the tongue in cheek videos I took a quick look into Gustavsson’s past musical ventures, but when an album is this jaw-droppingly brilliant you have to take it for what it is, a collection of truly fabulous songs that actually brought a nostalgic tear to my eye on more than one occasion.
Following the album’s brief scene setting intro ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’ gets fully underway with the track that started it all for us here at RPM, ‘On The Run’, a song which just like the album’s title track which follows, both kind of remind me of the energy and spirit of ‘Don’t Come Easy’ era Tyketto. Each track guaranteed to delight those of us who liked to wear our hair long at the back and short on the sides back in the day.
‘Stone Cold Eyes’ and ‘These Days’ sees Nestor’s very own Didge Digital Martin Frejinger weaving some keyboard magic into proceedings whilst ‘Perfect 10 (Eyes Like Demi Moore)’also manages to score a perfect 10 on my AOR parp-o-meter.
It’s when the album passes the half way mark that the pace drops for the first time (and bassist Marcus Åblad and drummer Mattias Carlsson get to quickly catch their breath) via the epic power ballad ‘Tomorrow’, which features Samantha Fox (yup that Sam Fox) on guest vocals (rumour has it that Lita Ford was originally approached but did not respond – her loss most definitely) and this leads straight into the haunting and ever so slightly progressive tinged ‘We Are Not Alone’.
Jonny Wemmenstedt’s chuggin’ Motley-esque guitar intro to Firesign’ gets the pedal well and truly to the metal once again with Gustavsson once again delivering a truly commanding vocal display. This guy is right up there with the Vaughns the Perrys and indeed the Boltons of the AOR world, and in the anthemic ‘1989’ Nestor has a track that could easily fit into the track listing of ‘Escape’. Yup it really is that great.
‘It Ain’t Me’ closes the album down with power ballad number three, and here Gustavsson vocally somehow draws on his past Chris Cornell influences whilst also adding an almost rock opera edge to the track. It’s actually my least favourite track on offer here, but that’s not to say it’s still not a fine ending to one of the most exciting AOR albums I’ve heard since I first came into contact with White Sister’s amazing ‘Fashion By Passion’ album all the way back in 1986.
Someone get my cotton suit and espadrilles out of storage I can feel the NWOAOR starting right here – ESSENTIAL!!!!!
Author: Johnny Hayward