NRBQ Dragnet (review)

NRBQ – Dragnet (Omnivore Recordings)

A new album from the Q?  Proof that the world isn’t ending…just yet!

Face it.  It’s been a tough couple of years.  The pandemic is still hanging around, yes.  But, we’ve also lost a lot of great, irreplaceable musicians.  Thankfully, the guys in NRBQ are still kickin,’ and they’ve just put together their first new album in seven years called Dragnet.

The band has spent the last few years looking backwards: first, issuing the fantastic, career-spanning box set, High Noon, in 2016, then a reissue campaign of some of their classic albums in 2018, and finally a rarities collection called In Frequencies in 2020.  The band did manage the five-song EP, Happy Talk in 2017, but Dragnet marks their first full-length in quite a long time.

And?  It’s everything we’ve come to love about NRBQ.

The album kicks off with the rockabilly-infused bit of weirdness, “Where’s My Pebble?” a song that could’ve easily been included on their debut, over 5 decades ago.  All four members contribute tracks to the project, and guitarist Scott Ligon turns in the catchy, country-flavored “I Like Her So Much.”  Drummer John Perrin penned the quaint “Memo Song.”

The band has always taken an “anything goes” approach to what gets included on their albums, and founder/keyboardist Terry Adams provides a lot of diversity, with the quirky “Miss Goody Two Shoes,” featuring a whacked out keyboard solo, being one example.

One of the highlights is Adams’ “You Can’t Change People”; it’s bouncing melody and sleigh bells make it sound like a Pet Sounds’ outtake, and the 12-string guitar solo is a nice touch.  The lyrics are certainly timely, with all the divisive air of today.  The song is a mere two minutes long with the resolution that “there ain’t nothing you can do / but let them exist.”  

The band has tackled TV themes before (their out-of-tune rendition of “Bonanza” from All Hopped Up comes to mind).  For “Dragnet,” they forgo the famous opening “bah, bah bah bum”and dive right into the next part of the song.  The track is powered by Casey McDonough’s bass, which sets the groove, before Adams’ adds a fuzzed-out, Clavinet solo, which Ligon answers with some tasty guitar work. 

One of the surprise tracks comes from McDonough:  “The Moon and Other Things” is a great ballad with some interesting chord changes, great harmonies on the chorus, and a nice acoustic solo in the middle.  “That Makes Me a Fool” sounds like a classic, supper-club jazz standard, but is in fact an original from Ligon, augmented by a beautiful Adams’ solo.  

The frenetic “Five More Miles” proves that the band can still exercise their free jazz side, while “L-O-N-E Lone-Ly” feels like a stream-of-consciousness piece with just Adams talking backed by a ticking clock and sparse piano. Not many songs capture the paranoia and despair brought on by the COVID pandemic better than this.  The album ends with “Sunflower,” at first just an Adams’ solo piece, but then the band joins, with Ligon mimicking his lyrics beautifully on guitar.  Yet, even that bit of beauty is brief.

The record is pretty short, clocking in at only 33 minutes.  I found myself going, “wait, that’s it”?  Which means, I just start the record over again, right?

Rockin, quirky, tender, with moments that still make you go “huh”? NRBQ still has it, and Dragnet is proof —Tony Peters