Philadelphia-based rockers NOTHING couldn’t have titled their second album in a more fitting way; the sentiment of being exhausted by everything the world throws at them resonates throughout, acknowledging that the next, almost-certain, disaster is forever imminent.
For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the not-so-glamorous story of NOTHING and ‘Tired of Tomorrow’, the lead up to, the recording of and the attempted release of their latest was a road filled with more than a few potholes.
The band’s leader-in-chief, Domenic Palermo, has what he would openly admit to being a chequered past. The singer and guitarist served a two-year spell in prison for a gang related stabbing incident before being released in 2004; that period is well and truly behind him now but that hasn’t stopped tribulations following him around. The expectancy of turmoil informs the bleakness of NOTHING’s lyrical output.
So, it probably came as no surprise to Palermo when, at the end of the touring cycle for their debut album, he was left beaten by a gang of thieves after a show in Oakland. The attack left him hospitalised with brain trauma and spine fractures; hardly the ideal preparation for the studio time with super-producer Will Yip a mere fortnight away. Thankfully, his time in that Oakland hospital was spent penning lyrics in spite of all the medication he was on and the symptoms of vertigo to deal with.
To hear the music on ‘Tired of Tomorrow’, you wouldn’t associate it with a band so haunted by a ghost of negativity. They’re so outwardly nihilistic that the shimmering and dreamy opener that ‘Fever Queen’ becomes after the initial drum-pounding seems slightly at odds with the band themselves until you’re hit with the realisation that this is the beauty of the album. It’s bleakness in a summer dress.
No more so is this true than on ‘Vertigo Flowers’. From the outside it’s a breezy, 90s grunge anthem but Palermo’s cynical side creeps through in the chorus of “Watch out for those who dare to say that everything will be okay. Watch out for those who want to be anything at all”. Hardly a singalong for the family barbecue this summer.
Similarly, ‘Abcessive Compulsive Disorder’, a song inspired by guitarist Brandon Setta’s rotting tooth, gives an account of being a toxic person that hurts loved ones. Again, the chorus floats by but the lyrics of “Can someone find a cure because you know me and you know I am not well. I always knew I’d eventually hurt you” are the stormy under current. It’s heavy in a different way than NOTHING usually are.
There are heavier moments on the record. ‘Curse of the Sun’ is all riffy grunge with almost-whispered vocals whilst ‘Eaten by Worms’ chugs along in a way any of grunge’s forefathers would be proud of. That being said, ‘Tired of Tomorrow’ has its finest moments when NOTHING are challenging themselves to broaden their horizons.
The closing title track is a perfect example of this. In a behind the scenes documentary that the band have released detailing the album’s ups and downs, Palermo says they “wanted to do something different from another boring guitar song so we wrote a boring piano song”. This is, of course, the frontman being dry. The dark but beautiful closer is the final, world weary exhale that details an unshakable, depressing outlook on the future, it’s anything but boring.
It seems pertinent to note that, towards the end of the recording sessions, the band were hit with more turmoil. It emerged that the Geoff Rickly-led Collect Records that they were due to release on was, funded by pharmaceutical super-villain, Martin Shkreli, the infamous price gouger of HIV medicine. Whilst his actions had been unbeknownst to Rickly, NOTHING weren’t comfortable with that being the story of ‘Tired of Tomorrow’. Rightfully so, they eventually resigned to former label, Relapse Records to give the one redeeming feature in their lives the break it so deserves.
‘Tired of Tomorrow’ is out now via Relapse Records.
This NOTHING article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.