It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, all while expecting varied results. Maybe it was Ben Franklin who said it, maybe Albert Einstein. Or perhaps it can be attributed to no one, a three-way love child of mindless politicians, the (equally mindless) media and the Internet. Whatever the case may be, it probably wasn’t Omar Khayyam, or by extension, Nigel Chapman, the creative impetus behind the lyrics on the debut record by Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes, which punning-ly takes its title – Whine of the Mystic – from the Rubaiyat, Khayyam’s collection of Persian poetry.
By day, Chapman works as a biochemist, experimenting with gene theory in a lab setting. About that job, he recently told Noisey, “I do the same experiment over and over trying to prove my research objectives… I think I’m making progress.” Whine of the Mystic takes a very similar approach. It’s a record of contradictions, paradoxes, stuck-in-the-middle moments, may they be of clarity or relapse, public loner-ism or private calls for help. It’s a half-drunk album that wants to be your friend but not get too close, wants you to notice but doesn’t care if you don’t.
Throughout it, Chapman is variously “pouring over scratched out pages,” “waiting by the phone” or pleading for anything from second chances to “two hundred and fifty thousand second chances.” He often doesn’t seem to be answering many of his own questions, but he’s perpetually propelled and kept afloat by the steady droning, undulating choogle provided by fellow Halifax-based musicians Brad Loughead (guitar), Josh Salter (bass) and Seamus Dalton (drums). Over top of it, Chapman speak-sings and employs a lazy, nasally voice that brings to mind decades of singers who have employed the same tactic – especially Lou Reed or Jonathan Richman – but it’s ultimately his own, used specifically to enforce his personal sentiment, like the way he can make a simple phrase like ‘fuck it’ last for two lines and a full range of emotions.
The record proceeds this way, and the band seems to be poised to make it out even, when towards the end of the record’s last, standout track, “No Fear of Hellfire,” Chapman throws out the record’s epiphany, what could perhaps be a lost verse from the Rubaiyat, scratched shakily on the back of a cigarette pack one bleary eyed morning:
“Then again I know that life/Is not meant for happiness/Or something like it/Life is very hard/I tried to find a way/And I found something out/I found romance/I played my cards right/Or I played them wrong.”
So there it is: enlightenment can come through doing the same thing over and again, but you have to be closely attuned to catch it; or, life is hard, but it’s worth getting up to beat the pavement every day to feel something rather than mindlessly accept and regurgitate clichés. Nap Eyes know these things and has conquered the fear required to take them on – they prove it over the course of Whine’s nine songs.