Genre: Science Fantasy/Hippiepunk
Runtime: 1hr 37mins
Cast: Paul Shapera, Kerttu Aarnipuu, Hayley Warner, Jessica Singer, Jessica Law, Lauren Osborn, Marjolein Nijsten
A thematic successor to Katy Shaw and the Search for the Stolen Secret, Nash Harding and the Secret of the Twisted Tower takes place in the halcyon days of New Albion, somewhere between the Dieselpunk and Atompunk eras. As with the previous long-titled album, Nash Harding etc. is a standalone narrative that nevertheless hints at the larger Shaperaverse. Though it’s set in the narrow gap between other albums, it’s very much its own beast and adds a great deal to the mythos, including magic paint, goblins and a universe made of candy. More on that later.
In all honesty, Hippie ‘culture’ is about as far from my comfort zone as it’s possible to get. I’ve never lived through it, I don’t understand it, and I’m pretty sure I don’t like it. With that in mind, I approached this album with more than a little trepidation. Though Shapera has an impressive track record – pun fully indented – he’s generally been quite close to my usual tastes in both theme and music. The first few songs on this album seemed to confirm my fears, as I found them less to my liking than his previous works. ‘The Balley a-Go-Go’ is an early standout though, with musical beats that have already grown on me. Whereas Katy Shaw was quite a dialogue heavy album, Nash Harding is more invested in long instrumentals. these are very good, and I like the music. But when it comes to songs, I like something I can sing along to, and instrumentals don’t offer that.
But then along comes ‘Lollyland’ at just after the halfway mark. This absolute demented masterpiece of a song is worth the price of admission alone. It leans fully into the weirder aspects of the Shaperaverse and emerges with its face covered in sugary glitter. It’s insane, it’s fun, it’s hauntingly tragic, and I love it. this is a song I could happily blast out on repeat and not grow sick of. With ‘Lollyland’ the entre album clicked into place for me, and everything that followed felt a lot more cohesive.
At over an hour and a half long, Nash Harding and the Secret of the Twisted Tower is an album that lives up to the length of its title. The story is suitably complex, and at times a little confusing, but you don’t need to fully comprehend it to enjoy the music. Indeed, some of the songs might just be beyond comprehension. Though I do think some of the instrumentals are a tad too long, the vocals are excellent and well worth the wait. The cast of largely familiar names are their usual brilliant selves, with Kerttu Aarnipuu deserving a special shout-out for bringing life to my new favourite goblin (and that’s at the top of a surprisingly long list). The framing narration also does an excellent job of tying things together, as well as hinting at something big still to come.
Overall, this a solid album, even if it’s not one of my favourites in the Shaperaverse. if you like hippies, you’ll get a lot more out of this than I did. If you hate hippies, then at least give Lollyland a visit. I doubt you’ll regret it.