Be Nice to the Peopleby Question Mark
Fans of the outer fringes of psychedelic rock have uncovered rare LPs by tripped-out bands from small-town America, tiny industrial hamlets in the U.K., and unlikely locales in Europe and Asia, but Question Mark's sole album is one of the only psychedelic artifacts to be unearthed from the nation of Nigeria. Given that Nigeria was mired in war and political strife during the late 1960s and early '70s, it's no wonder that most folks there were more interested in their own safety than exploring inner consciousness, but Be Nice to the People not only confirms that young people there were digging the sounds of the West, a few of them even came up with a fascinating variation on those themes. Question Mark's music was a long way from heavy psychedelia, but the music conjures a likable middle ground between the lighter and airier sounds of pop-psych, the grooves of American R&B and soul, and the exploratory tone of what would become known as progressive rock in a few years. Frank Izuora's lead vocals sometimes sound tentative and ill-fitting, but his English-language lyrics are no less entertaining than most U.S. or U.K. bands of the day, and his organ playing fuses the droning textures of African pop with a more adventurous approach. Lead guitarist Victor Egbe shines on the numbers where he's given a change to stretch out, like "Scram Out" and "Have You," and the rhythm section of bassist Amehl Izuorah, drummer Chyke Okafor, and percussionist Uzo Agulefo is tight and delivers plenty of drive. And if tunes like "Scram Out," "Mary Anne," and "Freaking Out" (the latter of which was covered by American garage-psych combo Mondo Topless) seem curious given their time and place, they deliver the mind-bending goods and sound fine despite the low-budget nature of this recording. Be Nice to the People isn't exactly a lost masterpiece, but it's certainly good enough to be more than just a curiosity, and even if Question Mark had been from the U.S., this album would still be worth a listen for collectors of unusual sounds of the era. The Normal Records reissue includes an interview with Victor Egbe and Uzo Agulefo in which they discuss the band and their musical history, one in which some treasured band photos have disappeared because of a war with Biafra.
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- Qdk Media
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