> Album Review: Billy Nomates - Cacti - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Album Review: Billy Nomates – Cacti

Some artists you can’t help but root for. It’s not necessarily about the songs, but in the many tiny ways they carry themselves. This is the case with Billy Nomates.

The artist (Tor Maries) makes excellent music, before Cacti and even more true now, but there’s always been an earnest feel to their approach. Honest tweets, insightful interviews and non-stop energetic live shows creates a connection, and you want the performer to overcome the challenges they face.

From the outside looking in, Tor has not had her troubles to seek, and being in the spotlight would never be a solution for a troubled time. Ducking out of the social media spotlight is rarely a bad idea, but the best way to get through is to kick on, and Cacti is an ideal source of inspiration for those looking to make 2023 their year.

Opener ‘balance is gone’ is a great way to continue the good work from the eponymous debut album. The nervous and sketchy energy would have fitted perfectly there, but it’s still fresh enough to usher in the new era. A snappy guitar break and lilting melodies could have been at odds with the murky backing, but it’s a great scene-setter for what proves to be a highly relatable record.

While the album isn’t a massive step forward from Billy Nomates, it moves further sonically and lyrically in all directions. If the debut album was highly personal, allowing you to spend time with Tor’s point-of-view, there’s a broader appeal and world-weary feel here. It’s not as if the artist has chucked the introspection away; she has evolved to share her thoughts communally. 

Some of the abrasive edges have also been worn down. The relentless, punk assault of the debut was refreshing, but here, the softer moments provide a balance you didn’t know you needed from the artist. Put it this way, if the sound never shifted, there’d be more complaints about that, so let’s not have any whining that it isn’t the same old same old.

The spiky moments are still present, and you cannot fail to marvel at the fist-in-the-air self-celebratory tone of ‘spite’, including the ‘don’t you act like I ain’t the fucking man’ line that should soundtrack pre, during and post drinks across the country, from all genders.

The musical track isn’t far from a soft-sheen 80s backing, but the vocals are pushed up to leave you in no doubt as to Billy’s intentions. In a moment of clarity, those who spend their days volleying up and down with self-doubt will recognise all too well when you feel good, make the most of it, and don’t worry about others.

The album moves onto ‘fawner’, an acoustic shuffle with even softer introspection, completely turning the bravado of ‘spite’ on its head. Don’t get settled, though, because the strut of ‘same gun’ shakes you up, and you’re ready to take on the world again. 

Music as therapy is nothing new, and the way hope and breakthroughs punctuate the anger and uncertainty should lift others. When you consider the massive shitshow we’re wading through on this poxy island, it’s bewildering there aren’t more artists railing in this manner and absolutely perplexing that the ones who do are predominantly overlooked.

Billy Nomates should be more well-known; this isn’t up for debate. Cacti tells a well-rounded story, one of making it through the crap and seeing the sunshine long enough to keep going. The live shows should be even better this year, which is a massive reason to get through the rest of January, winter and whatever else. And if that’s not enough, do it out of ‘spite’.

Cacti is out now via Invada Records.

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