Release Date: Oct 30, 2020
Record label: Relapse Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Noise-Rock, Shoegaze
Philadelphia’s Nothing are one of these rare species in that their music somehow manages to traverse numerous boundaries and genres without ever fully aligning itself specifically to any particular one. The epitome of longevity, it probably explains why after a decade of making music together, every subsequent record is greeted with a sense of anticipation and rightly so. 2014’s debut Guilty of Everything was a breath of fresh air and each of its three predecessors has seen its creators take several left turns while upping the songwriting ante every time. However, with The Great Dismal they’ve exceeded expectations.
I don't need to go into detail when I say that 2020 wasn't perhaps the year we were all expecting when we ushered it in, eyes bright with anticipation or whatever else had been consumed that evening. For that reason, it's somewhat fitting that an image of a black hole was NOTHING founder Dominic Palermo's inspiration for their new album 'The Great Dismal'. Indeed, even if one hadn't listened to NOTHING before, they'd be forgiven for assuming that given the events of the year, and the record's title, that the fourth LP from the Philadelphia shoegazers would be a bleak and desolate affair and digging into the back story of Palermo himself would only strengthen such assumptions.
Remember back in April when a national lockdown was optimistically unveiled as only for a few weeks? Remember when the States hadn't really come into contact with the virus? So does Nothing's Domenic Palermo, who - with the band's characteristic cynicism - quite literally laughs at the proverbial different time on standout 'April Ha Ha'. "Isn't it strange watching people trying to outrun rain," he asks rhetorically, turning his eye to the fantasists and securing 'The Great Dismal's crushing realism. Holed up with producer Will Yip for an extended period of isolation, the band encapsulate the claustrophobia of 2020.
Nothing burst onto the shoegaze and metal scene with the brilliant Guilty of Everything, an album that perfectly juxtaposed the swooning nowhereness of the former with the pounding immediacy of the latter. It was such a perfect debut that the band struggled a bit to figure out exactly where to go from there. After a record that was too slick and melodic (Tired of Tomorrow) and one that set them back on the right track but neglected the metal side of the equation (Dance on the Blacktop), on 2020's The Great Dismal, they finally get the balance just right.
Where their last album, Dance on the Blacktop, was a heavy, unwieldy beast, The Great Dismal features a much more accessible, much more open sound. The first tune, "A Fabricated Life", is an emphatic, downbeat slice of dreamy goth-pop that wouldn't sound out of place on any of the albums released in the wake of The Cure 's 1989 masterpiece Disintegration. The industrial groove of "Say Less" plays with classic shoegaze sonics before "April Ha Ha" returns the band to one of their most comfortable modes - a kind of Smashing Pumpkins-y, Slowdive-y majestic rock built around pillars of noise.