August 20, 2018 Nothing – Dance On The Blacktop (Album Review)
Nowadays, most new popular and underground Rock music is centered around one sound. You get the modern feel of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal, sometimes mixed with a classic vibe, or a straight-up Emo/Alternative/Hard Rock/Pop type sound housed in the Modern Rock family. Every now and then, bands like Red Sun Rising and Wolf Alice come along sounding as if they have time traveled from 1994 on music that sounds exactly like it came out in the flannel wearing, Alternative Rock/Grunge era.
Adding one more young band to this list, the Philadelphia, PA band known as Nothing. Formed back in 2010, the quartet intertwines a mix of Alternative Rock/Grunge/Indie Rock/Slowcore/Shoegaze. Ready to deliver new music, Nothing are elated to announce Dance On The Blacktop, their third album set for release on Friday, August 24, 2018, thanks to Relapse Records.
Looking back at the story behind the band, Nothing started out as a means of therapy for Vocalist Domenic Palermo who began the old-fashioned way, with a demo tape. Palermo previously played in a Hardcore Punk band and one night got himself into some major trouble that led Palermo to a two year incarceration. Searching for himself again, after a few years, Palermo decided to give a different type of music a try and began working on Nothing, eventually releasing several EPs amongst a number of lineup changes.
By 2013, Palermo had teamed up with Guitarist Brandon Setta, Bassist Chris Betts, and Drummer Kyle Kimball. Garnering a buzz, Nothing soon signed to Relapse Records and, in March 2014, the band released their acclaimed debut album, Guilty of Everything. Candid lyrics, comprised of real life struggles, saw Palermo painting a dramatic portrait of both happy and sad times. Heading into 2016, Nothing was joined by Nick Bassett on bass and released the sophomore album Tired of Tomorrow.
Fast forward to present times, joined by their newest Bassist Aaron Heard, Nothing brought in esteemed Producer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth) for the Dance On The Blacktop recording sessions which took place at Woodstock, New York’s Dreamland Studio. For Palermo, these sessions grew very personal as sadly he had lost his father a few years earlier and was also diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease CTE (Chronic Trauma Encephalopathy), a condition found in people with serious head injuries. In the end, Nothing had conceived an album streaming Palermo’s battle with pain, both physical and emotional, turmoil, anxiety, depression, CTE, and past demons. Adding intrigue, the album title, Dance On The Blacktop, derives from an ancient prison slang describing a fight in the jail yard.
Reflecting back on Dance On The Blacktop and the impact of his life on the writing process, Palermo stated: “I don’t feel as though I’ve grown less cynical by any means– maybe just more comfortable knowing that I’m no longer using existence, existence is using me.”
That in mind, Dance On The Blacktop opens via “Zero Day,” and right away the listener is hit with a mellowed out, distorted ’90s Alternative/Grunge sound, highly reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins. “Blue Line Baby” comes in with that familiar yearning guitar sound heading into the calm verse highlighted by just a few strokes of the guitar strings, taps on the drum kit’s high-hat, all building into a full-blown chorus where all the instruments come together flourishing as one.
Continuing the trend, an upbeat tune, “You Wind Me Up” will remind any listener old enough to remember of all the great music films of the ’90s, such as 1995’s Angus, had to offer. Next, “Plastic Migraine” delivers dreary guitar and a very Indie Rock sound. Next up, on “Us/We/Are,” “Hail On Palace Pier,” and “I Hate The Flowers,” Nothing gifts loud crunchy guitar meeting a mellow vocal vibe just as Radiohead did on 1995’s The Bends.
Really moving into deep territory, “The Carpenter” is a seven minute, staggering mellow journey about Palermo’s father who was a Carpenter. Not only this, Palermo wrote the song amidst memories of his father’s struggle with addiction and anger, all of which are vivid in the song’s texture. In one last Dance On The Blacktop, “(Hope) Is Just Another Word With A Hole In It” closes out the album in more dramatic appeal.
In conclusion, at first some listeners may find Dance On The Blacktop to be nostalgic yet lacking musical diversity as the songs do all sound the same and it is very hard to make out the lyrics, hindering the connection. Having said this, new listeners and current fans alike should take a deeper look into who Nothing are and the life of Domenic Palermo. Knowing his backstory, as a music fan, and a human being, one cannot deny how vividly Palermo expresses his emotions through the music. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Dance On The Blacktop 3.5 out of 5 stars.