I saw Paulo Nutini on Jools Holland show and had just realised who he reminded me of an instant before Jackie said, “this guy looks just like Vic Chesnutt.” It’s true, too. The way he was hanging his head whilst leaning into the microphone, his careful-to-strained mock-pedantic enunciation, his juvenile lyrics masquerading as poetry, his highly talented band playing slow for their master’s barely competent strumming, even the sound of his voice seemed to be reaching out to channel Vic.
This is one of the great puzzles of the last 20 years: why is Vic so fucking popular? Had he not wrecked his car and landed in a wheelchair, he would still be penning these same kindergarten faux-gothic tone poems he does today and would probably have improved his playing enough to do studio work, but no one would ever put up with his self congratulatory and masturbatory ego if they didn’t pity him.
I had a copy of Little on cassette back when he couldn’t give it away (and this one, for that matter, was given to me by the stinky little cripple in a parking lot in Athens, Georgia); when I would play the cuts that were actually as good as anything he has yet to do–without a real band backing him up, that is–for acquaintances (some of whom were music writers for the Creative Loafing, an Atlanta Weekly) they would individually and collectively politely nod that the song was okay then put on something that was REALLY moving, or rocked, or didn’t bore the piss out of the folks in the room. These same critics wrote a few weeks later (after seeing photos of the little Ironside) about this quadriplegic wunderkind that Michael Stipe had discovered berating the crowd at an open mic nite at the 40 Watt Club.
That leaves us with Paulo Nutini, and his ilk for that matter. Without a debilitating disease or an impending suicide attempt that leaves them maimed (but otherwise unchanged), what hope do they have of ever matching Señor Chesnutt’s success?