Nothing: Guilty of Everything

[25 March 2014]

By Gary Suarez

Designed to be loved.

Not a week goes by without an album release or song premiere from a fresh-faced band described by publicists and bloggers in comparison with some inactive or recently reunited ‘90s alt act they most resemble. So evident is the impairment—or, less kindly, the failure—of modern rock music that contemporary artists flop around in the swingin’ sounds of yesteryear in the hopes of absorbing some of its spent mojo. Real or imagined, emo revivals and shoegaze surges inevitably cast bitterly cold daylight on just how much better we believe the originals did things in comparison with these millennial wannabes, stoking some arguably well-deserved resentment. A drug taken enough times to qualify as abuse leaves a pining for those first furtive fixes.

Any rage against this unsavory sort of plunderous vampirism, however, ought to be a low-grade rage, one that steadily simmers rather than impotently explodes. Indeed, the more one screams about it, the more one invites dismissive retorts of ageism, and rightly so. Still, we ought not excuse Nothing from their obvious sin simply because they’ve done such a damn good job of it. Lazily likenable to the ferocious squall of My Bloody Valentine and the tenderized toil of early Sunny Day Real Estate, Guilty of Everything offers shockingly little beyond what was already on offer by the mid-‘90s. Yet as it so happens, the record fares remarkably better than most of those moldy oldies they’ve already been compared with, albeit for banal reasons.

That, then, is perhaps the greater blasphemy. Reissue campaigns and reunion tours touted by blogs batter us into submission, into accepting that what came before was the correct form, that all which follows will be somehow insufficient and in some way unsatisfactory. Nothing eviscerate that fallacious logic simply by releasing a full-length debut superior by design to those of the former touchpoints. Here is the point where you, conditioned listener and content consumer, will likely turn your brain off in fitful protest: Guilty of Everything is better than Souvlaki, better than The Comforts of Madness or Spooky or LP2 (The Pink Album). This isn’t to suggest that Guilty of Everything is some perfect record. Instead, it’s come time to concede in retrospect that shoegaze—that muddled, muddy subgenre born of music media narrative—wasn’t all that great and that, in our time of online ever-presence and ubiquity, a formula for artistic success can be crowdsourced.

Still, anyone framing Nothing as mere shoegaze nostalgia act suffers from the myopia of segmentation. How else could anyone listening to opener “Hymn for the Pillory” not pick up on the booming megalomaniacal grandeur of Mellon Collie-period Smashing Pumpkins or the manipulative faux-epics of M83? Single “Dig” regurgitates Side B of Hum’s You’d Prefer an Astronaut, while “Somersault” wallows in the same space as the Cure’s dusty glower. “Beat Around The Bush” and “Endlessly” so accurately evoke emo tropes that one might almost overlook how efficiently“Get Well” swipes from The Jesus And Mary Chain.

Is it unfair to dissect Nothing’s music in this fashion, a cruel and clinical cataloging? Not when the mimicry is so brazen and deliberate, the well-timed IPO of a full length debut. After all, labels, publicists, and artists alike regularly engage in this sort of tagging behavior on the other end. This extreme measure—a form of civil disobedience on the part of this lumbering greying critic—comes about because Guilty of Everything is beautiful cynicism, perfectly titled, and holistically designed to be loved within tenths of a percent by the target demo. Our lazy complicity as listeners and consumers, those who ultimately demand the references that others make, led to this terrific sounding slab of sonic nihilism. We deserve Nothing.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/179732-nothing-guilty-of-everything/