For the unfamiliar, Nardwuar the Human Serviette might seem at worst a strange case of Canadian tomfoolery and at best an obnoxiously persistent music nerd; he becomes quite the charming genius when you realize both are true. His recent compilation, Busy Doing Nothing, features his band The Evaporators and others celebrating the Vancouver punk scene’s history through his own wacky filter.
Nardwuar (yes, real legal name since the ’80s) is a walking treasure trove of alternative music knowledge, and as a charismatic, authentic champion of Vancouver’s garage punk and rock scene, he’s remained a fierce personality at eclectic stations like WFMU and the University of British Columbia’s CiTR. Katy Perry, Iggy Pop, the Odd Future gang, and a slew of others are often left bewildered by his interviewing approach and aesthetic; I admit that I felt a bit bamboozled upon a first listen to Busy Doing Nothing, but it’s worth noting that Vancouver’s rock community is as genuine as these songs aim to portray.
The Evaporators perform some catchy, upbeat tunes with rapper Sage Francis and party-rocker Andrew WK here, but those play second to the reverent salutes to British Columbia bands such as The Dishrags and Cub. Kate Nash lovingly covers Cub’s early-90s amped-up pop-punk hit “My Chinchilla” with flair and charm, while Franz Ferdinand appear twice on the compilation: on a recording of their first endearing conversation with Nardwuar and again while covering Vancouver New Wave punks The Pointed Sticks with a tight, silky performance of “Real Thing”. Nardwuar even reaches deep into Vancouver’s alternative past to cover ’70s rockabilly obscurity “Bring It on Home” by Doug Rutledge, complete with his facetious show-tune sign-off.
You could fault the album for having the cover songs packaged in one half and the original, snarky Evaporators material in the other. You could fault the album for not stretching as far as The Human Serviette does in his own mind-blowing, nostalgia-inducing interviews to uncover Vancouver history. All fair points, but the retrospection and hijinks still run rampant. When compared with the compilation, witnessing his awkward, dedicated interviews might provide a tad more enjoyment, but Nardwuar remains the stalwart music worshipper reminding us that there’s always something else to listen to and discover.
Essential Tracks: “I Hate Being Late When I’m Early”, “Busy Doing Nothing”, and “Real Thing”