In 1990, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson were among the sexiest men on the new music scene, hot 22yr-old identical twins with long blond hair and pretty eyes who, because they are twins, could harmonize seamlessly with each other. Their long hair and their guitar-heavy sound put them in the rock category at the tail end of the hair-band era, just as I was becoming old enough to start to understand the word ‘sexy’ as not quite a synonym to the word ‘cute’. The Nelson brothers’ songs, despite their rock tendencies, drew from the rock n’ roll sounds of past decades, a natural-enough tendency for the sons of the legendary Ricky Nelson. This meant that their songs have the themes and lyrics which would put them in a category alongside NSYNC and other pop groups nowadays.
In 2012 this syrupy obsession with love and the loss thereof would be far overdone, with almost all the top 40 hits echoing the same tiny set of sounds and sentiments. But, in 1990 the music scene was shifting from hair-bands and guitar ballads to grunge rock and the heavier sound of bands like Pantera. Country had not yet strayed far enough to pick up the pop/rock influences it has now, so all those fans who now go for artists like Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert were instead stuck with the softer fringes of MTV’s offerings. Nelson provided one such option, with enough of a beat and edge to not be ‘easy-listening’, but with nice, catchy lyrics sung by pretty young men.
Of course, MTV no longer is the “Music Television” channel its name suggests, and long before they gave up music for reality TV, Nelson had disappeared from the lives of most Americans. They did not stop making music, of course. Between 1990 and 2000 Nelson released 7 albums, and in the past few years they’ve released several more, so that even without having all their albums available of spotify, I had a 5hr playlist by the time I loaded in all of what spotify does have. (Note, if you go looking for them on spotify, that there are at least 3 artists under the name ‘Nelson’ on spotify, so it is wise to glance at a discography on one of the Nelson webpages, or at least at the wikipedia page for Nelson, or amazon.com first.
I actually rather enjoyed the music from the French guy whose music is tangled into the Nelson page on spotify, Nelson Gotteland. The other artist lumped in under ‘Nelson’ is a French R&B fellow whose music reminds me somewhat of the stuff my brother does, only in French. Considering how common the name Nelson is, the fact that there are other musicians in the world with this name is not surprising, and the more the music scene draws from a global array of artists, the more confusing spotify may become. At least Nelson Gottelund sounds nothing like the Nelson brothers, and the R&B Nelson is even harder to mistake for the Nelson brothers.
From what I read at the Official Nelson webpage, and elsewhere on their rather complicated collection of internet sites, there have been some rather exciting developments recently in the musical careers of these guys. Most importantly, these (still sexy) lads, now all of 44yrs-old, have released a new album, Lightening Strikes Twice, which picks up the aesthetics Nelson did so well in 1990, that guitar-heavy harmony rock sound that was so enticing on their first album, After the Rain. And, while they still don’t really blend in well with the current hard rock scene, there is a lot of music on the Top 40 charts which would blend in nicely with the new Nelson album’s tracks. Matthew and Gunnar have grown up, and their sound is subtly more mature, even in their more recent renditions of their classics, on their other new studio release, Before the Rain.
So far Nelson is playing mostly casinos and cruises, but it would not take much to get these guys into better venues again. Two blond, sexy men with guitars? I’m sure America’s mainstream music scene would love to have these men back for another round. Ryan Kelly has more facebook friends than Nelson right now, even though Ryan started a lot later, so perhaps Nelson may need to figure out how to adapt to modern media tools, but I’m optimistic that they can if they choose to. And maybe, if they have kids, their kids will carry on the music tradition their dad Ricky, and their grandparents Ozzie and Harriet created.