Nikki Sudden died Sunday at age 49. If you don’t know him, Bitchfork has a nice little obit here. No mention on how he died, but for one thing, his family could use an uplifting next ten years — Sudden’s brother, Epic Soundtracks, hanged himself in 1997.
Together they formed Swell Maps in the seventies, inspiring a wealth of modern outfits with their focused mess of smarty-pants art pop, notably Pavement, who would cover them from time to time.
Sudden’s solo albums were hit or miss jangle-pop affairs. The late eighties ones work best. Soundtracks dropped some ok solo records, but was greatest as the blizzard-o-beats drummer for These Immortal Souls, the noir-like-a-mofo post-Crime and the City Solution & Birthday Party project of guitarist Rowland S. Howard. They’re one of the few bands to cover a track (“Hey (Little Child)” ) from Alex Chilton’s drunk materpiece Like Flies on Sherbert and not sound like they’re joking.
My fondest Swell Maps memory: buying a vinyl copy of Jane from Occupied Europe for six bucks on the sidewalk at a small flea market in a Hoboken park in 1997. Nice spring day. The seller’s friend was annoyed at the sale, which was a true indie rock apostasy.
Take note: these are circa 1978-81. Ahead of their time is an understatement.