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Nothing - The Great Dismal (Relapse)

3 December 2020

The first couple of records by Nothing attempted to forge a distinctive dream pop sound out of its members’ backgrounds in metal and hardcore, to mixed results. By 2018’s impressive Dance On the Blacktop, however, the Philadelphia quartet abandoned strict adherence to shoegazing, instead incorporating every aspect of the early nineties’ guitar-heavy alt.rock that appealed to them as each song required. The result was a great record and a revitalized band.

The follow-up to that landmark, The Great Dismal follows suit, casting an even wider net. Opener “A Fabricated Life” sticks to the slow and dreamy, though with a better understanding of how to work the proper dynamics than that found in the band’s early work. But “Say Less” puts rock muscle behind shimmering guitar lines that could have come from England’s 4AD label in the Reagan Years, supported by a danceable groove. From there the group veers from acid-tipped grunge (“April Ha Ha,” “Ask the Rust”) to musclebound atmo-pop (“Bernie Sanders,” “Catch a Fade”). When the band does dip back into the shoegaze suitcase, as on “Blue Mecca” and “In Blueberry Memories,” it does so with a far more confident feel than before. Bandleader Dominic Palermo buries his voice in the mix, allowing its impact to be textural instead of extrusive, while the guitars often sound like they’re trying to combine every sound on 120 Minutes all at once.

From humble beginnings, Nothing has grown into a truly excellent band, with a sure grasp on how it wants to sound and how to write for itself. The Great Dismal is Nothing at its best.