The Dirty Nil
(Dine Alone Records)
Rare is the band which knows precisely who they are and actually celebrates that identity rather than asking listeners to excuse it. There’s a certain spark in the music made by bands like that – Alice Cooper Group had it, as did Dead Kennedys, Eagles of Death Metal and Green Day – and The Dirty Nil steps up boldly to prove that they’ve got it with their third album, Fuck Art.
Of course, it would be easy enough for some fans to say that Fuck Art is just the logical extension of the alt- and punk scenes that the band first presented on (their 2016 debut album) Higher Power and began perfecting with 2018’s Master Volume, but anyone listening can tell that there’s more to Fuck Art than that. Yes, there is the confidence which normally comes with already having released two well-received albums (and one comp – Maximum R&B in 2017), but there is also a sense of ambition affixed to every damned microtone of Fuck Art which doesn’t just imply that Dirty Nil is reaching for the gold star of greatness, it flat-out screams it at broadcast volume. There is simply no escape from The Dirty Nil’s ambition on Fuck Art – but the best part is that the album is so good, listeners will find that they have precisely no desire to get away from it while it plays.
As soon as “Doom Boy” hits the ground and opens the album, those listening to it will get taken off their feet as though they’ve just been kicked in the solar plexus. There, while the first thing listeners hear is a crunchy guitar figure which sounds like it could have come out of a metal album from the Eighties, the tone changes as soon as singer.guitarist Luke Bentham starts laying into his lyrics. The mix parts to let Bentham’s voice through, and the frenetic drums which were pushing against the vocal suddenly give some room – and, between mentions of The Cro-Mags and talk of holding hands with a girl in the back of his dad’s Dodge Caravan (to a Slayer soundtrack, apparently), The Dirty Nil finds its way into pop punk bliss. The song knows no age; punks will fall head over heels in love with what they’re hearing, whether they’re fourteen or forty.
After “Doom Boy” sets the stage, The Dirty Nil keeps the exact same tone as Bentham asks a girl out on a movie date while simultaneously comparing the act of saying, “I love you” to taking forty-two blunt-force concussions (in “Blunt-Force Concussions”) and then seems to get a little chubby ’round the mid-section for the “very Seventies production” exercise of “Elvis ’77” (complete with a slippery slide lead guitar tone worthy of Eric Clapton) before lightening up the running for the poppier “Down With Drugs” (which features the best line ever: “I’m done with drugs, I hope they’re done with me”) and “Ride or Die,” which splits the difference between hard rock and melodic hardcore, and manages to fall into a camp all its own.
Now, the first five songs on their own could have made for a phenomenal EP, easily – but The Dirty Nil proves beyond a doubt that they can get more out of this muse as they re-collect themselves with the crunchy but mid-tempo measure of “Hang Yer Moon” and then launch headlong into the snotty and snide vibe of “Hello Jealousy” before resting a bit in the closest thing to a ballad that this album has to offer, and it’s about riding a bike (“To The Guy Who Stole My Bike”) – and then finally winding down with “One More and The Bill” (which wins listeners over easily with the words, “”Gonna smash my TV, smash my phone/ Leave politics alone” – which just feels refreshing, after the godawful last few years we’ve endured from Washington) to close the album out.
Now, looking objectively at Fuck Art, there’s no question that the first half of the album is hands-down better than the second – but it is worth conceding that the second half of the album is solid even if it doesn’t shine quite as brightly as the first. In that way, it could easily be argued that a CD release is the ideal format for the reception of Fuck Art; while it would be easy enough for listeners to never actually hear the second half of the album on vinyl (because they’d simply never flip from the A-side to the B-), the CD format keeps listeners locked in and engaged for all thirty-five minutes of the album’s runtime. In that way, it could be argued that “on CD” is the best way to absorb Fuck Art. [Bill Adams]
Fuck Art is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.