With their interpretations of bruising atmospheric rock and pummelling shoegaze, Philadelphia’s Nothing have been purveyors of many a luminous ear worm over the last 14 years.
Songs like the Bent Nail, Somersault, Tired of Tomorrow and Blue Line Baby, all instant bangers that are bound to brighten one’s day.
With their fifth album, The Great Dismal, many anticipated big things from Nothing.
For the most part, Nothing‘s fanbase seem to decamp into two factions. Those who like it when the band play on the fringes of aggression (Tired of Tomorrow) and those who find the band at their best when they cross the battles lines into fiery sonic warfare.
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With The Great Dismal, we find Nothing tending to their quieter more emotional side and the results are a mixed bag.
While opener, A Fabricated Life, offers a promising start, from then on, sonically, Nothing seem to reach too far into the past, effectively losing sight of the present.
Say Less is My Bloody Valentine Isn’t Anything homage, with the quiet/loud production techniques peering through the cracks, but the end result feels flat and jaded.
So too with April Hah Hah, which sounds more like a Swervedriver B-side instead of the cut and thrust we’re used to hearing from Nothing.
There are brighter moments with Catch a Fade and Famine Asylum. While Nothing trade in their flangey guitar binges for Domenic Palermo‘s heartfelt melodies, although not their greatest strength, here it works well.
Then there’s In Blueberry Memories. Head and shoulders the stand out song on The Great Dismal, containing all the burning facets that made us fall in love with Nothing in the first place. Gliding rhythms and tumbling drums sweep across the guitar tremolo like thick sheets of rain with Palermo‘s melodies gloriously bursting through the instrumentation. It’s one of the finest songs Nothing have written.
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Sadly, these moments are few and far between with the likes of Just a Story and closing cut, Ask the Rust lacking guile and feeling more like a band going through the motions.
Nothing flourish when they crank up the amps and while there are moments of this, too often they seem to draw heavily from the past which makes The Great Dismal pass off as pastiche. It’s an album with themes weighing on reflection, however Nothing‘s sound feels too close to the narrative instead of kicking against it in a bid to cause some much needed urgency.
Listeners will keep going back to The Great Dismal , for Nothing have always held a charm for immediacy. Everyone needs records like this in their diet.
However, it’s not something new and vital from a band who have previously showcased the ability to provide just that. It’s a re-tread over common paths and after the brilliant Dance on the Blacktop, on the whole The Great Dismal feels like a slight misstep.
The Great Dismal is out now via Relapse Records.