Release Date: Nov 13, 2015
Record label: Goner Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Garage Punk, Noise-Rock
For each song on Nots’ debut album, there’s a word or phrase that makes itself prominent, forcefully. Most of these are ripped from the song’s titles: "insect eyes," "decadence," "reactor," "strange rage," "static," "psychic talk show." They’re used as bludgeons, shouted by multiple voices, often lobbed with disdain or disgust. Obviously, there’s a lot of punk rock utility in catchy, abrasive, oft-repeated two-word hooks—when several people shout "black mold" in unison, you pay attention.
Natalie Hoffmann, the former Ex-Cult bassist who now plays guitar as the leader of Nots, was asked to describe her band's music during a television appearance, and she offhandedly coined the phrase "weird punk. " That designation may have been tossed off, but it certainly fits -- on Nots' debut album, We Are Nots, they sound very punk (though pre-hardcore) and more than a little weird, as their tough, elemental rock & roll tunes run up against Hoffmann's solos, which generate pointed fragments of reverb-soaked noise bursting forth like shards of aural shrapnel, and Alexandra Eastburn's keyboards, which percolate with post-melodic electronic blurts, howls, and shrieks. At its best, We Are Nots suggests Allen Ravenstine of Pere Ubu jamming with the Urinals, though Nots are a shade tighter than either band, and while they seem aware of the history of punk's more chaotic offshoots, on this album they sound more like stylistic contemporaries than followers.
Memphis four piece Nots’ first full-length record is barely that, zipping past breathlessly in less than half an hour. It’s a lo-fi punk ghost train ride of spooky organ sounds, guitar riffs scrawling auguries over the walls and slavering, growling basslines. Imagine Victor Frankenstein sewing together The Cramps and The Slits and you might get the idea.
Taking their cues from the Fall at their most primal, Memphis four-piece Nots have hit upon a bracingly discordant strain of post-punk. Natalie Hoffman’s hollered vocals owe much to those of Bikini Kill-era Kathleen Hanna, while Alexandra Eastburn’s oddly lurching synths add another layer of chaos by appearing to be fighting against her bandmates’ contributions. And yet although they sound the part, on the basis of this breakneck 27-minute debut, the actual songwriting seems too much like an afterthought.