Back in the 1990’s, along with the presidency of Bill Clinton, the original airing of “Twin Peaks”, and the mistake that was jnco’s, two bands rose to the forefront of the independent rock and punk scene. One was Nirvana, a band that went on to wildly exceed the popularity of other punk rock peers, but always managed to maintain an essence of “true” punk; balancing their gritty, sludgy attacks with undeniable hooks that constantly kept the listener humming along. The other band, however, were shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine and, while never receiving the same level of public success as Nirvana, managed to receive some of the highest critical praise ever, pushing the newly emerging genre forward and showing just what a band could do with the right amount of guitar pedals and ingenuity. Both bands were influential in their own right, and helped to shape the era that was the 1990’s, helping it to produce some of the best (and worst; Dave Matthews Band) rock music ever.
However, the point of referencing these two bands is not to simply celebrate their contributions to music once again but, instead, see a byproduct of their influence in the form of Philadelphia shoegaze band’s Nothing‘s newest record, Tired of Tomorrow. The album shows the band who once relished in the dark and gloomy tonal sounds harnessing more of their shoegaze side, dipping more into the lush, dense sounds of My Bloody Valentine to add subtle layers underneath their already dense sound. On “Nineteen Ninety Heaven“, for example, the band provides their classic form of moody, sauntering “nugaze” sound, carrying through out the song with quietly whispered vocals over gentle guitars and drums. The true beauty of the song, however, lies underneath, as soft synth pads compliment singer’s Dominick Palmero’s croon as well as the ethereal female vocalist that seems to faze in and out of the song at random. This gentle balance between all the layers, as well as the listener’s ability to focus in and then off each, is what truly sets Nothing apart from other nugaze acts as they still harness the gentle nudges that made shoegaze such an enveloping, distinct genre in the first place.
While the broader delve into the shoegaze spectrum has helped Nothing expand and feel more comfortable as a band, it is only part of their growth as songwriters. Since their earliest days with songs like “Downward Years to Come” and “Bent Nail”, Nothing has always displayed a remarkable ability to balance the sheer thickness and gloom of their sound with easily accessible pop-oriented hooks. With Tired of Tomorrow, the band expands even further on this formula, introducing such songs as “Vertigo Flowers” and “Eaten By Worms”. From the initial burst of “And I hear, everything you’re saying” on “Vertigo Flowers“, Nothing works an ear worm into the listeners head, holding them captive as the song progresses along a fairly standard punk song route, occasionally bleeding into the ethereal as the reverb and chorus finally wins. Similar is “Eaten By Worms“, though this song instead relishes in the thicker, more spacious aspect of Nothing’s sound. The chorus is simple and repeated often, giving any new listener an easy place to dive into the band’s sound, but the constantly whirling assault of feedback and ambient background noise makes it such an interesting and diverse song that it is hard to pin it down easily or tire of it quickly.
This balance of density and challenge, while tying it all together with a nice hook and melody, is where the comparison to Nirvana comes in especially handy when dealing with Nothing. The band understands that shoegaze is a genre that is hard to pin down exactly, especially their particular brand, as it rests in the darker end of the spectrum. However, this never stopped Kurt Cobain as he melded sludgy, dissonant punk songs into radio-friendly anthems, and it has not stopped Nothing yet either. Both bands meet in the incredible middle point of producing genuine, challenging music that will, most likely, survive for a long time due to its ability to surprise even repeat listeners, while remaining accessible enough on the base level to attract new, more casual listeners. Albums like these are extremely rare, and bands that continue to produce so even rarer, which is exactly what is so exciting about Nothing. If they can produce such rich, powerful content for their debut LP, Guilty of Everything, then follow it with such a diverse record as Tired of Tomorrow, then surely they will continue to do so, keeping it just dark enough for the fans of extreme music who seem to like them so much, while still drawing in new fans from the shoegaze and indie rock genres.
Tired of Tomorrow does not just defeat the sophomore slump, but defeats that notion that it even exists, raising the bar for the so called “shoegaze revival”. In the face of a “revival” of bands that seem all too happy to simply fall back on the critically acclaimed guitar rock of their predecessors, Nothing shows that not only are they the true and rightful kings of the “nugaze” movement, but also that they deserve a spot in the pantheon of shoegaze essentials, as they have now done more than enough to challenge genre-norms while still adhering (albeit loosely) to its rules. It’s hard to be Tired of Tomorrow when each passing day brings us (hopefully) closer to a new LP from Nothing.