By: Rich Buley
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Released on May 13, 2016 via Relapse Records
Philadelphia shoegazers Nothing have certainly been through the mill since the release of their superb debut album Guilty of Everything in 2014. Founder and guitarist/vocalist Dominic Palermo got jumped and ferociously beaten up after a show in Oakland, suffering skull fractures and injuries to his spine that required extensive rehabilitation. During the same time period Palermo learned of the death of his father. And, if that wasn’t just about enough to deal with, the band then discovered that Collect Records, the label due to release their second album, was being funded by disgraced hedge fund millionaire Martin Shrkeli, the man who infamously bought the rights to a pharmaceutical that greatly aided HIV sufferers, and then dramatically hiked the price. Palermo, along with fellow band members Brandon Setta (Guitar, Vocals), Nick Bassett (Bass) and Kyle Kimball (Percussion) would have been forgiven for thinking at that point that those in charge at Mission Control really had it in for them.
To their immense credit, Nothing immediately severed ties with the label, returned to Relapse Records, the home of their debut, and the wilfully titled Tired of Tomorrow now sees the light of day.
With Palermo having previously been in hardcore band Horror Show, and Bassett in black metal outfit Deafheaven, Nothing’s debut discharged a gloomy, muscular take on early 90s shoegaze and alternative rock, with enormous slabs of head-frying distortion juxtaposing delightfully with soaring melodies and airy, half-whispered vocals. The album had widespread appeal, crossing over into many metal, hardcore and post rock ‘best of year’ lists.
It is therefore quite surprising, for a band who had already sounded reasonably angry, and who have just spent the last two years dealing with a truckload of trauma, that Tired of Tomorrow sounds altogether more restrained, thoughtful and melodic. Yes, the impressively burly rhythm section is present and correct, as is the gratifying desire for sky-scraping, effects-laden guitars, but Nothing this time around appear to have found a semblance of calm and solace in amongst the ruin and chaos of their everyday lives. It is a much happier sounding record.
Where ‘Hymn to the Pillory’ positively exploded their debut into life, ‘Fever Queen’ glides serenely into earshot, in comparison. The guitars are dreamier, less intense, and Palermo sounds positively chilled. ‘The Dead Are Dumb’ follows quickly and is, despite the title, absolutely gorgeous, swooning along on a featherbed of blissed-out guitars, which flourish as an undeniably spine-tingling chorus takes over. Nothing may assert “isn’t it such a shame/all our words are wasted” but nothing could actually be further from the truth here, or indeed elsewhere on the album. Despite the hushed, world-weary delivery, the vocals are atypically high in the mix for this style of music, and it gives the band engaging definition and a sense of identity obviously not often found in a genre famous for floppy fringes and footwear fixation.
Like fellow noise merchants Whirr, with whom they share a member in Bassett, Nothing’s tempo is largely slow and meticulous, with each drumbeat almost an event in itself. When they do hit the throttle, which here is really only with lead single ‘Vertigo Flowers’, the results are spectacular, with the band sounding vigorous and energised, and remarkably similar to the criminally undervalued Amusement Parks On Fire.
That’s not to say that the rest of the album suffers as a result of its more studied delivery. ‘ACD (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)’ has another instantly lovable chorus, despite the bleak subject matter- “Here we are again. Someone find a cure because you know me and you know I am not well”, as the band chug and smoulder in the background. While ‘Eaten By Worms’ sees the band fire up the pedals and serve up an eminently passable Nevermind era Nirvana fuzz-fest.
But it is the perhaps unexpected lightness of touch and mostly sunny (with cloudy intervals) disposition that characterises Tired of Tomorrow as a whole. The mellow chimes of ‘Nineteen Ninety Heaven’ and genial tone of ‘Everyone Is Happy’ belie the discontented nature of the album’s name, while the title track itself sees Nothing deliver a naturally sombre but beautiful ballad, with noise rock band apparatus entirely abandoned in favour of piano and strings.
Where others’ rage and disaffection will clearly be heard in their music, Nothing have left anger behind and escaped into a world of inner peace and beauty. Yes, they still sing of pain, illness and death, and still surround those words with a hefty, delay-soaked racket, but they do so now with hope and with light, and the combination has made for a wonderful, life-affirming record.