We know Philly’s Purples as the revved-up, rambunctious and generally fun outgrouth of the popular aughties indie rock act The Teeth. So the initial and understandable reaction to their somber new single “Nancy” might be to question whether they’re serious. It’s slow with an extremely underplayed drumbeat, and the piano chords ring out with a theatrical flair. In the song’s companion music video, guitarist Brian Ashby wanders solemnly around Laurel Hill Cemetary carrying a bouquet, mouthing the words so listlessly that his lips barely seem to part. He’s got long hair and a moustache, but he’s wearing a suit – he’s totally joking, right?
Actually, he is for real. So for real, as is the band as a whole. If my read is correct, this song is done with zero detachment or irony. These are musicians who, in their previous act, were praised for their highly literate and thoughtful lyrics – words that could engage those interested in a good narrative while still providing a fun musical time for those who might not want to think about heavy matters.
“Nancy” pulls the rug out: “my shadow falls on you like a reflection in the dirt / I would have killed you with my knife if that would only make you hurt.” Later, the point becomes more pointed as you watch Ashby sing it whilst wandering round the headstones, ”I’ll come back to you, dear, if you want me to.”
While there are no specifics given – and I’m not sure if there was a backstory that led to this song, other than to say Nancy is the title of the album Purples is releasing next year - the character Ashby is portraying, it seems, is sad / suicidal / homicidal / embittered / angry / complex and absolutely intriguing. So much so that Purples’ standard garage-pop approach is not the appropriate canvas to paint them.
So “Laura” ponders mortality, and it does it slowly and beautifully. Download the song and watch the video below. We’re looking forward to more from the many sides of Purples in the new year.