Punk/Pop are two dirty words that shouldn’t be used in the same sentence these days, right? Overly used by reviewers, (hell, I’ll be the first to hold my hands up!) it’s an easy double-barrelled description to pigeonhole a band. But Ontario based boys The Dirty Nil are not a punk band and they most certainly are not a pop band. The three-piece, comprising singer/guitarist Luke Bentham, bassist Ross Miller, and drummer Kyle Fisher will be the first to tell you their band is a straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll outfit.
Their sophomore long player ‘Master Volume’ contains ten short, sharp shocks of power pop laced rock ‘n’ roll fury, with the songwriting suss of Westerberg and Cuomo and a raw visceral delivery akin to Nirvana on ‘In Utero’ or The Manics on ’The Holy Bible’. Bold comparisons to live up to yes, but check out the similarities.
There’s a nihilistic, fuck you attitude within the grooves of ‘Master Volume’. Just several songs in you get the feeling that Luke’s manic, almost schizophrenic vocal and guitar delivery could well turn from tongue in cheek to window licker at any given moment. What could tip him over the edge?
Largely written on the road, the lyrics explore themes of death, loss, and boredom, yet sound-wise it’s a remarkably upbeat album. The opening one-two of ‘That’s What Heaven Feels Like’ and ‘Bathed In Light’ certainly explore those themes to the full. The former a mid-paced rocker that rides on a sleazy riff and a Lit melody, the latter channels The Replacements with bouncing bass and pop sensibilities aplenty.
The Dirty Nil deal in irresistible, radio-friendly hooks and have crafted an album chock-a-block with the fuckers! Whether it’s raw, in your face punk energy of ‘Please, Please Me’ with its live feel and glorious ramshackle live climax, the punk/pop (there, I said it!) goodness of ‘Smoking is Magic’, the glorious Mega City Four feel of ‘Pain Of Infinity’ or just getting lost in a stoner wasteland on ‘Always High’, there is not a duff tune in sight.
Highlights? ‘Super 8’ deals with the tedium of motel life and has one of the finest hooks you’ll hear all year, you’ll think you’ve heard it before somewhere, it’s that good. Luke takes things down if only momentarily in ‘Auf Wiedersehen’, a break-up song for two fuck-ups that builds Westerberg style, to an epic, bile-spitting chorus.
While the album paints a picture of self-destruction and living on the edge, there is also introspection and a warm-heartedness to several songs. How can you not feel the sentiment in ‘I Don’t Want That Phone Call’, a song that names no names but is a shout out to a friend’s addictions.
A stadium-sized production job courtesy of John Goodmanson (Bikini Kill/Death Cab For Cutie) manages to capture the sound and feel of a band writing songs during soundchecks and practicing harmonies between gigs in the back of a van or a cheap motel.
Yes, there’s something special about ‘Master Volume’. Maybe it’s the familiarity, they certainly remind me of Mega City Four, The Replacements and The Senseless Things amongst others, or maybe it’s the lyrics that just seem to hit home. Whatever it is, it makes me wanna turn the volume of life up a notch, hit the gas and ride towards oblivion on a high.