Pennsylvanian rockers, Nothing, return to the scene with their third studio-length record, Dance On The Blacktop. A record that attempts to break the rules of sound in its own way by flooding each track from start to finish with intense and dreary atmospherics, all encased in a tidal wave of fuzz and ferocity.
From the off, we’re met with ‘Zero Day’, which launches an absolutely colossal sound wave through the silence and leaves the listener feeling incredibly dwarfed. Each guitar strum blurs seamlessly into the other instruments and when all cumulate together, the sound becomes so overwhelming, it’s as though you’ve been placed in the cold vacuum of space. Vocalist Dominic Palermo’s tones throughout this album are interesting, for such a heavy sound, you’d expect a similar level of vocal power. However, instead, Nothing thrive off of Dominic’s dreamy and calming voice, casually spilling out monotonic lyrics of emotion and heartache. A solid start which will definitely grab the attention of anyone discovering this band for the first time.
From here, the album continues in the same fashion for the majority of the tracks. Flooding your ears with continuous, intense and fuzzy sound which all create an equally intense effect. Whilst ‘Blue Line Baby’ does place more emphasis on the vocal, where we get to know Dominic’s voice a little more, it soon erupts again into the blurring of nauseating noise and chaos. Likewise, ‘Us/We/are’ introduces the sound to an almost grungy tone, emphasising a far more punchy level of fuzz and energy.
Whilst the tidal of sound is truly impressive, it has to be said that the prolonged monotony of it adds nothing overly special to the record, making the album feel like more of a missed opportunity than anything particularly revolutionary. Whilst some may admire the messy and unorganised nature of the sound, most tracks do feel so similar to the others that it becomes genuinely difficult to distinguish any from one another.
This said, there are a few momentary exceptions to the messy structures which leave a genuine impact, the penultimate eight minute track, ‘The Carpenter’s Son’ provides the album with a little more dreamy but sorrowful sound where Dominic’s delectable lyricism takes priority. Likewise, ‘Hail On Palace Pier’ perhaps offers the best track on the record, stepping away from the sheer intensity and offering a sound which really lets you get to know the artist. The stronger sense of melody and trippy guitar licks make the track genuinely memorable and feels like the first time the band are working as a unit instead of just throwing sounds together and hoping something good comes out.
To sum up Dance On The Blacktop in one sentence, it’s the kind of record which you’d want to listen to on a drizzly autumn or winter’s day. I suppose this is why the band have set the release around this time of year. For a third instalment, this is by no means a bad album and Nothing have certainly found their niche, it just feels as though it could have been so much more. There is definite talent here and you can certainly feel the sense of confusion, anxiety, paranoia, depression and pain that the band claim brought this album into existence. However, there still remains a lack of overall substance which makes this album stand out from all the other grunge resurgence bands going at the moment. There is certainly a time and place for an album like this, perhaps if you’re in the mood for a well of emotional feeling and discomfort, Dance On The Blacktops is the album for you.