The first thing that hits you is a brief shot of feedback, followed by a pummeling of guitar chords and crash cymbals, before the band settles into a lazy half-time beat with dreamy vocal harmonies. But the guitars are still there. They rarely go away, except in some rare moments of restraint, and even during those quieter moments, there’s an intensity that runs through the whole album.
That’s Philadelphia’s Nothing in a nutshell, and Tired of Tomorrow is their second full-length album and their first since Guilty of Everything was released two years ago. Since then, the band has endured its share of personal tragedies (family deaths, hospitalizations), not to mention the fact that Nothing founder Dominic Palermo did time for aggravated assault and attempted murder prior to the forming of his current band. It’s hard to say how much of these demons manifest themselves on the new album — the lyrics can be hard to decipher. Musically, however, it’s a full-on assault. The oft-used terms “shoegaze” and “dream pop” almost seem like misnomers as they conjure up peaceful images. Nothing comes to shake things up and rattle your senses.
The shoegaze term is certainly fitting in a historical context, as the term was widely used in the early ’90s, and Tired of Tomorrow definitely sounds like a throwback to the era of bands like Ride and My Bloody Valentine. The guitars are brutal and unforgiving, but the harmonies offer a sweet counterbalance. “The Dead Are Dumb” combines a ballad tempo with washes of guitars and a sighing chorus of “Isn’t it quite the same / Isn’t it such a shame” like a gloomy slowjam. Faster tempos rule songs like “Vertigo Flowers”, complete with a muscular Bob Mould soundalike riff and an accompanying paint-splattered video that looks like OK Go on a budget.
Elsewhere, more influences poke their heads out of the songs like welcome reminders of a not-so-distant era. “Curse of the Sun” almost sounds like an outtake from Radiohead’s The Bends, but the term “outtake” implies something of lesser quality; the track is actually a beautifully heartfelt composition, aided by some very Jonny Greenwood-sounding riffs while stinging leads float over the whole thing.
Interestingly, Tired of Tomorrow gradually winds down in its last three songs, as if indicating a cool-down period. “Everyone is Happy” is softer than most of what’s been heard previously, mostly due to the overwhelming presence of acoustic guitars over electric. The song seems like a sigh of relief after the intensity of everything that preceded it. Likewise, while “Our Plague” steps up the tempo, it still comes on a bit tentatively, as if to not awaken the beast of earlier tracks. As an overall musical theme, this arc works to the band’s advantage, showing a deep range without being jarring.
The album closes with an introspective title track driven by piano and strings, which would normally border on maudlin if not for its hauntingly effective minor key and the fact that the strings are used effectively and not as a cheap form of emotional manipulation. I prefer Nothing when they rock out, but this kind of eclecticism works in their favor.
With a lean run time of about 45 minutes, Tired of Tomorrow is a welcome and long-awaited addition to Nothing’s catalog. It can be a rough emotional ride, but the fact that the band can show its battle scars with such a great selection of songs should give everyone hope for the future.