Fresh from the vault (7)

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Some albums leave your jaw on the floor, in awe of the skill employed in their execution. Sometimes it’s the words that get you, or the sweetness of the melodies. Maybe they make you laugh or cry, or wanna dance your ass off. As an adult I can reason that all of the above are factors in my enduring love affair with this band and album, but I’m not really sure I’m convincing myself because actually I just heard it and immediately loved it and much like the title it just isn’t meant to make sense:

0+2=1 by Nomeansno.

This album will always be in my top ten. I listen to it rarely, truth be told but every time I do it gets me again just like the first time. It got me before I even heard it, when I read the  review in Metal Hammer back in 1991 and wondered briefly why an album that apparently wasn’t metal had been voted ‘Album of the month’. I imagine many metal listeners would have run out, bought this on the strength of the review and hated it. There was an irate reader’s letter in the same issue berating the mag for recommending the new Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ new disc, dismissing it as ‘dustbin lid punk’ (?), claiming his record deck had been soiled by playing it. Yeah, I know. I can imagine many people hating Nomeansno, actually: for being clever dick ‘punks’ who can really play, for appropriating a feminist slogan as their moniker or for being just plumb uncategorizable.  Like Cardiacs or late-period Scott Walker and Talk Talk  I do feel that it’s a band you’ll either fall for hook, line and sinker or not at all.

A nifty snap shot of the band’s ideosyncrasy can be found on their album ‘One’ (2000) which features covers of both Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’ (for which the band had the temerity to pen their own lyric) and The Ramones’ ‘Beat On The Brat’. If Jazz-Fusion Punk? Just about sums ’em up; except it doesn’t: there’s a comedic aspect to Nomeansno’s music – nonsensical and occasionally juvenile – that casual listeners might well find offputting. Maynard Keenan rates them: that tells you something, too. Like the aforementioned Cardiacs, NMN combine the raw edge of Punk/New Wave with the technical dexterity of fusion (and as such are credited as an influence on Math Rock). But perhaps most importantly, a touching sincerity and nebulous sense of seriousness that i find compelling. Listening to their albums is like being given the keys to an exclusive club in a parallel universe and being dared to enter.

I’m resistant to the idea of trying to break it down into individual tracks – all the songs on 0+2=1 sound different to each other and completely like Nomeansno. Guitars sometime jangle invitingly or riff jaggedly: sometimes there are no guitars. Touches of keyboard, horn sections and additional percussion add colour and texture. Lyricall they tend to eschew sensible narrative in favour of nonsensical ‘word painting’. ‘Nonsense is better than no sense at all’ to quote the title track. Odd meter changes and quiet/loud contrasts await to trip up the unwary listener, though it’s a million miles from the worst ‘up its own arse’ prog excess or landfill Indie predictability.

Picking which tracks to showcase is a tough call. It’s that rare beast, a perfect ten, except to borrow from Spinal Tap this album goes up to eleven and all eleven tracks are unique and deserve their place. The full album might be a daunting aspect for a new listener – but then again it might not, you might immediately love ’em as much as I did. Try these three for size. Maybe you’ll be back for more.

 

 

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2 responses »

  1. Super effing fantastic review, man. And the Cardiacs mention is spot on, I feel like a lot of people miss that (mostly because the Cardiacs are so criminally under-known.) This is also my favorite NMN album, and the one that introduced me to them in 1991. I was reading The Rocket I think, and saw a review. Probably near the Mongo Boy cartoon.

    • Thanks. I like bands that just do their own thing (especially those who keep on doing it irrespective of a lack of mainstream appreciation). I’ve only got one Cardiacs compilation and their back catalogue is traded at hellishly expensive prices on eBay I’m kinda holding out for re-issues at some point in order to collect some more CDs. You’d think the money would come in handy, what with Tim Smith’s ongoing health problems and all. Thankfully NMN are available at slightly more reasonable rates as I still have 2 or 3 albums to collect. They’ve played gigs down here a few times but I keep missing them, though I did catch The Hanson Brothers a few years back.

      Being a Cardiacs fan you may also be interested in this Levitation FB group I recently joined:

      http://www.facebook.com/groups/13704804676/10150372757324677/

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