If Nothing’s sullen music seems to slouch into the room, eyes to the floor and shoulders hunched, it’s at least heralded by wincing self-reflection and a notorious history – debut album Guilty Of Everything dealt with singer Dominic Palermo’s cleared assault charges. New album Tired Of Tomorrow is purportedly informed by personal tragedy, family troubles, and Martin Shkreli: a classic laundry list of modern existential scourges.
If you weren’t familiar with the band it would almost seem like a joke at first, most of the tracklist suggesting an album spilling over with nihilism and gore – Eaten By Worms, Our Plague, Abcessive Compulsive Disorder – on paper, Nothing sound like angry metal and grim navel-gazing, pustulence laid on egregiously and gratuitously. This isn’t the case, however, and while they might not be devout shoegazers, Nothing are known for a dreamier brand of abrasive noise that’s been experiencing a healthy revival for some time now.
Revivalism and ubiquitousness could make it advantageous, then, that Nothing aren’t straight-shooting through the foggy mire of shoegaze (though eyes are certainly towards effects pedals throughout this album) and are mixing their influences more freely this time around. Strong melodies and guitar solos are able to emerge from the miasmic blur – Tired Of Tomorrow presents with a clearer, crisper sound than its predecessor. To call it clean would be neatening it up too much, but for better or worse it does feel sleeker.
It won’t be for everyone: there’s a sense of uncanny to Nothing’s drift from shoegaze, a clarity that can leave certain elements feeling exposed. Palermo’s vocals, hushed and soft like the best of them, aren’t buried under mountains of distorted guitars as you might expect, creating a sort of barefoot shoegaze mixed with alt-rock and nods towards metal labelmates. Fans looking for an unabashed take on any of the aforementioned genres might feel short-changed, though the easy uneasiness this concoction brings fits Nothing’s off-kilter moodiness and gives way to some of the album’s more bracing and memorable moments when deployed well.
Opener Fever Queen starts things off big, bold and familiar with crashing cymbals and a wall-to-wall assault of guitars before sinking down into its core of powerfully sluggish quicksand, not worlds away from what Nothing are known for. But wandering further than this means that there’s more to come back to and more to take in. Among everything to unpack is the kind of alternative rock that charted well a couple of decades ago, for instance – Curse Of The Sun recalls The Smashing Pumpkins at the height of their powers, Billy Corgan’s polarizing voice replaced by softer tones. “Made of blood and semen / piss and shit are we,” sighs Palermo despondently with an oddly pleasant, palatable malaise. It’s a gift to be able to make such bitter pills easy to swallow, and colouring outside the genre lines creates a welcoming mess for listeners who fancy some anthems from the void’s college radio. Veering further from the script, the back end of the album – Our Plague and the title track in particular – go all-out dream pop before stripping things back to piano and strings, and dusting off the noisy palimpsest means these tracks expose the album’s emotional core spectacularly.
The mix of gorgeous dirt and downer hooks makes Tired Of Tomorrow a welcoming pity party that plays to universal malaise rather than shrouding itself in reverb, eyes to the floor. It has pointier edges than a lot of shoegaze and it’s fuzzier and dustier than alt-rock; think of it as a splash of acidity that brings the band’s component flavours into stark relief. Even then, there’s balance, and it never goes full-tilt in any direction, instead playing out like a greatest hits of ‘80s and ‘90s alternative, a loud-quiet-loud spellbook intent on dredging up the scum to wonderful effect. Bad feelings probably shouldn’t feel this good, but Nothing’s cynicism is cathartic and – weirdly – enjoyable.