Nothing's 'Dance on the Blacktop' Is a Homage to the Best of Early '90s Alternative Rock

Dance on the Blacktop is not a new Nothing, it's just Nothing in new clothes, and it is probably a Smashing Pumpkins T-shirt.

Dance on the Blacktop


24 August 2018

To begin, the band is called Nothing. There's a heavy signifier, all on its lonesome. It's a big name and small name, all in the same. They play a form of hyper-aggressive shoegaze. The band and their members have a dramatic history worthy of a biopic on VHI in the mid-1990s. All this tells you something, but the music speaks loudly as well. Singer Domenic Palermo started in hardcore, and as much as Nothing is distant from that, he holds those aesthetics close to his chest, whether it be in the occasional heaviness of the music or the general hopelessness of some of the lyrics. Dance on the Blacktop is Nothing's third full-length, and as much as it's a rehash of their sound, it's a refined version of it.

From the outset, Nothing was turning heads, mostly because they didn't play metal and they were on Relapse, a noted metal label. So, Guilty of Everything, their debut, was framed awkwardly. Outside of that critical confusion though, Guilty of Everything, has a defined sound of its own. It's shoegaze with a penchant for pummeling the listener whenever it gets a break from the breathy singing. Tired of Tomorrow, the follow-up, didn't change much, but occasionally sounded like Nirvana, which was surprisingly functional for the band's repertoire. Dance on the Blacktop takes all that and ups the bet just enough to not turn anyone off.

Dance on the Blacktop is not a new Nothing, it's just Nothing in new clothes, and it is probably a Smashing Pumpkins T-shirt. Whereas the past albums mixed the guitars on a equal of lower level than the vocals, allowing Palermo's nearly whispered vocals to be a highlight, Dance on the Blacktop mixes the guitars higher and adds layers of crunch, reminiscent of the glory days of the aforementioned Pumpkins. Bringing in John Agnello, a studio veteran associated with the hugest of the era from Kim Deal to Sonic Youth, probably has everything to do with this. Furthermore, the album shows a heavier interests in riffs as opposed to just soaring chords and lengthy grooves. In the end, Dance on the Blacktop, comes off as a homage to the best of early '90s alternative rock.

For this reviewer, a few tracks stand out above the rest. "You Wind Me Up" is a poppy version of what the band has been doing for years; think "Alison" by Slowdive but with buzzsaw guitars. "Us/We/Are" is the ultimate representation of the aforementioned 1990s alternative obsession, complete with a super crunchy riff and repeated refrain of "everything's red". "Carpenter's Son" also stands out, if nothing more than just a song that allows the listener to breathe for a moment as the band settles into a long, slow movement of a song without any explosions. It's a rare look for the group, to be sure.

On "Zero Day" the opening track, Palermo, opens the album by singing "everything starts the same". It's an awesome lyric for a band like Nothing to begin with. This is a band that bucked expectations from the beginning. They don't really need our guidance. It all starts the same, but from there, they go whatever way they want. Nothing wrong with that.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.