by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
“Everything/Starts the same/Infinity/Oblivion”
So begins Nothing’s new album. The choice we all must face if we give existence any serious thought. Infinity or oblivion? Since the band is called Nothing one can guess which way they lean. This has always been the dichotomy of Nothing; lyrically channeling all the harshness of life while musically creating an output that is frequently open, powerful, and beautiful. Songs are haunted by an answer that life is void of meaning. The songs mine for something deeper, something lurking underneath the everyday mundane things of life, even if deep down the digger thinks there’s ultimately, well, nothing.
Dance on the Blacktop is filled with the imagery of everyday life: street names, city landmarks, relationships, city life, family, creativity, late nights, and long days. But these topics are tweaked, shrouded in the darker side of these things. The streets in a hardened city where kids OD, relationships are threatened by the ravages of mental illness, drinking becomes a means to unwind until it leads to being obliterated, friendships that are formed by people who have nothing and no-one, the oppressiveness of large cities on small people, the fracture that can occur in families when one finds that their parents are flawed, the business of creating just to have a reason to stay alive. The vocals are awash in reverb and echo, buried underneath the band, giving aid to these stories as being the stores of the underground, the rot underneath the sheen. It’s the sound of that low undercurrent, the constant hum that you feel that tells you things are off, something is wrong, you can’t always trust your senses.
This is where the instruments come in to play their parts and where Nothing shines brightest. The music they create to go with the lyrically dark material is the counter balance to all this heaviness. The guitar lines soar up and out, each song threatening to become an anthem that lifts you up, eyes searching the skies. The music provides the beauty of life that one finds everywhere in the seeming meaninglessness. The feeling of those good days when anything seems possible. That feeling of still being here, alive, pushing through the pain to exist.
Each album builds and adds to Nothing’s strengths and this trend continues on Dance on the Blacktop. The album is sequenced incredibly well. Each song building on the last, taking you through a designed emotional trip. Their riffs are as massive as ever. Monster jams that dare you to keep still, to not emote. These are aided by lush melodies that feel like a weighted blanket to the ears. A wall of sound that enwraps the listener and lends to it being their fullest sounding album to date, likely aided by producer John Agnello who has produced albums from other provocateurs of distortion like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. The album was also recorded out in Woodstock and one wonders if the rural location lended to this open feeling. Dominic Palermo and Brandon Setta sound more confident and assured in their singing. Their voices are a little more forward in the mix, but just a little.
This all works together to make Dance on the Blacktop Nothing’s most consistent record to date. The highs are high, the lows are low, and all that other shit we like to say when trying to describe music. But the bottom line is Nothing is a band that makes you feel anything but. They continue to develop their strengths and build on them with each album. Sure the world may be meaningless, but at least it’s got a great soundtrack.