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The Paranoid Style - The Interrogator (Bar/None)

29 January 2024

An awarded and respected journalist by day, singer/songwriter Elizabeth Nelson has led her band The Paranoid Style through several albums so far, most of them on beloved indie label Bar/None. The Interrogator consolidates her strengths, and loops in a new recruit on lead guitar: Peter Holsapple of the dB’s and the Continental Drifters. The Interrogator sounds like manna from heaven for a certain type of rock & roll fan – specifically those that prefer their riffs ‘n’ grooves to be accompanied by a barrage of smart, pointed, funny lyrics. Unsurprisingly for a writer by trade, Nelson clearly loves words, and has the perfect conversational singing style with which to deliver them. “Are You Loathsome Tonight” and “I Love the Sound of Structured Class” combine sociopolitical wordplay with nods to rock history, ribbing Elvis Presley and Nick Lowe while skewering more modern, less musical concerns. “The Return of the Molly Maguires” resurrects Irish American history as a combination warning/wishlist for the present. “That Drop is Steep” lets loose the ambivalent but brilliant line “Something about rock & roll makes it difficult to sleep,” while “The Ballad of Impertinent Information (Turn It On)” takes on the absurdity of the rock & roll life more loquaciously. Not content merely to impress with her English lit skills, however, Nelson wraps her verses in rootsy guitar pop that makes every chorus sing and lyric hum. For those of us who thought this sort of rock was a relic of the past, The Interrogator brings smiles so wide your face will ache.