Glancing at the titles of the third long player from Nothing, (‘Zero Day’, ‘I Hate The Flowers’, ‘(HOPE) Is Just Another Word With A Hole In It’), it is perhaps apparent that something quite dark will be lurking beneath the surface. However, there is a lot more to the band, led by Dominic Palermo since 2010, than mere angst; there is always hope, not to mention a healthy dose of self-deprecation too.
Throwing a curve ball ahead of the album’s release, the band shared the near-8-minute epic ‘The Carpenter’s Son’, a beautifully sedate piece that sounds more like early Slowdive off-shoot Mojave 3 than, say, Sonic Youth (who themselves happen to be one of the clients of Dance On The Blacktop‘s producer John Agnello). It’s a lovely track that continues in the vein of 2016’s Tired Of Tomorrow standout track ‘A.C.D. (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)’. It’s also a far cry from the new album’s opener, the aforementioned ‘Zero Day’, which starts like an early Smashing Pumpkins track before blossoming with a buoyant chorus.
Palermo hasn’t had the best of times recently, being diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease, and his dealing with his symptoms may have left its own mark on the record. Like all of Nothing’s material though, it is multi-layered and repeated listens reveal nuances and Palermo’s own sense of the absurd, which seems to light his way and allow him to sound upbeat and energised at times as well as contemplative and introspective at others.
‘You Wind Me Up’, just a word away from a peak period song by The Jesus & Mary Chain actually sounds not unlike one of that band’s more chart-friendly singles with a sunny disposition and a big commercial tune. ‘Plastic Migraine’ is another of the gentler side of Nothing, and again is in possession of plenty of melodic charm.
There’s plenty of space on the songs for Palermo’s voice to make its impression, with the guitars kicking in when they need to, but with a lot of light and shade. ‘Hail On Palace Pier’ is another upbeat one, apparently about the futility of war (though it could be about something else entirely) and is one of several songs that could have been proper hits in the days when bands like Nothing were permitted to have a crack at producing such things.
Dance On The Blacktop (named from ancient prison slang relating to an altercation during outside recreation time) is a lot sunnier then than that initial cursory glance at the song titles indicated. Even ‘I Hate The Flowers’ yearns with hope and positivity, while closer ‘(HOPE) Is Just Another Word With A Hole In It’ is a fitting way to end the record, pretty much bringing in all of the elements that make Nothing such a force, that happy-sadness and above all, really good songs at the core of it all.
Everything that Nothing have recorded so far has been worthy of your attention; Dance On The Blacktop is no exception.
Make August 24th Buy Nothing Day!
Dance On The Blacktop is released on August 24th by Relapse Records.