The Dirty Nil
Cinnamon is available at:
Cinnamon/Guided by Vices is released on August 19th (Fat Wreck Chords)
Rock and Roll, Metal, Grunge
Canada is providing some of the world’s most diverse and interesting music of the moment. The Dirty Nil– and their explosive sound- are a Rock and Roll-cum-Grunge force of nature. Cinnamon is a bold sermon from a band that want to make a big name for themselves- on this evidence, it will not be long until that happens…
IT is the great range of musicians and acts out there…
that makes my ‘day-to-day role’ so worthwhile and interesting. On my last outing I reviewed a U.K. based Pop act- as well as the time before that in fact- previously I have assessed U.S. Folk and Rock- in addition to a myriad of homegrown and international diversity. It is great to hear what new music is coming up with, for a couple of different reasons: first of all, I enjoy hearing what young musical minds are coming up with- what is happening in different parts of the world; how future music may shape up and change. The other reason I get so enthralled is the chance to be inspired: so many acts I have reviewed have influenced my own songwriting and made me more acute and adventurous- building up my quality level and adding colour and difference to my portfolio. Today’s act has impressed my- for a number of reasons. When I was sent their single, they gave me all the information I needed: press and music photos all attached; gig dates and links included; bio. and band information was in there- I didn’t need to go searching or spend an inordinate amount of time foraging through Google– for information and piece of the puzzle. It may sound like a small and unimpressive consideration, yet it makes my life that much easier: so many bands and acts have a sloppy and incomplete social media cannon; their sense of story and information-gifting is sparse and meagre- there is precisely bugger-all to investigate. Before I go into more depth (translation: ramble a bit), I shall introduce you to one of Canada’s most vibrant and electrifying acts:
Luke Bentham: Guitar and Vocals
Kyle Fisher: Drums
Dave Nardi: Bass
“The Dirty Nil play rock and roll. Loud, distorted, and out of control, they play like it’s a fever they’re trying to sweat out. Reveling in the din of distorted guitars, pounding drums, and desperately howled vocals, the Hamilton Ontario three-piece makes music for turntables and hi-fi’s – music for dive bars and house parties – for beer drinking and joint smoking – for road trips and barbecues – for fighting and yelling and shouting and singing and screaming and howling – for sweating and bleeding – trying and failing and trying again anyways. Gravel-in-your guts, spit-in-your-eye, staggering, bloodthirsty rock and roll. They have two 7″s available that capture the snarl and destructive noise they create. The Dirty Nil play rock and roll – cause they couldn’t do a damn thing else if they tried.“
Quite a vivid and vibrant projection isn’t it? The band themselves have probably distilled their ethanol-filled charm to a tee: there is a riot of noise, energy and raw sex appeal to be discovered. Our boys mix Rock and Roll flavours of the modern-day; Punk elements of the ’70s- and inject a bag-load of Grunge/Metal grit and gravel. You may well need to be hooked to a morphine drip- to ensure their sounds do not stay in your head forever- yet an important point needs to be made (which I have raised before): do not associate Rock and Roll/Punk sounds with the aimlessly annoying or dangerously cloying. There are a host of ill-equipped wasters that have all the charm of a vomit factory: they are happy enough to scream bloody murder without eliciting a single melodic note or intelligent lyric. Because of these- albeit minority- players, the genres have garnered a bad reputation: The Dirty Nil are certainly a name to be reckoned with. The Canadians summon up the sort of sub-two minute gems that the purveyors of Punk used to do; the kind of tracks early-career The White Stripes honed and mastered- few modern-day acts have that knack of packing punch and appeal into such a short space. Before I delve into the band’s annals, I will mention a final point: the sense of lost youth in the music industry. When investigating artists such as Flavor (a Chicago-based Power-Pop foursome) I was impressed by their energy and teenage kicks (they are barely in their 20s so I guess they were acting their age). The Dirty Nil are no old men- they are a young and fresh-faced band- yet understand the importance in keeping Rock and Roll’s traditional burning flame alight- the gods and guitar-smashers of the ’70s would shake their heads when looking around the music scene. Just typing this sentence, I have put together (in my head) a springy, medical woe-based Rock and Roll cut- with some wit and twisting wordplay (I hope). It is not hard to create tight and interesting songs; so few current artists have a sense vitality and spry ambition: how many mainstream acts can you name that connect with those that want to lose themselves; forgive their (lack of) inhibitions- and transport themselves to the heyday of Punk and Rock and Roll? In a music scene where there is an abundance of choice and dishes- whether you are a fussy eater or have a delicate palette, you can find something nourishing. The Dirty Nil provide a spicy kick; a hot rush in the throat; sweet and minty flavours- and an aftertaste that compels you to sample their delicacies time and time again.
The opening moments of Fuckin’ Up Young are a rush of ecstatic vocals and primal urge. With a ragged and raw production, the E.P.’s duo of tracks are bare-boned and accusatory. The title track is emphatic and determined- almost demented even- and the band are keen to ensure that ears were pricked from the very first seconds. The contrasted bouncing blues guitars of Verona Lung boasts chorused vocals and a vibrant and alluring central figure. The subjects across the debut E.P. look at issues of messing up and wasting opportunities; scrappy love and the anger of youth and modern life. Subjects such as these found their way onto later works, yet the early days of The Dirty Nil mixed angry disaffection and dislocation with plenty of atmospheric back avenues and scenes. The performances are assured and tight; the band seem to be finding their voice- trying to see what genres and styles they want to play: there is no disjointed playing, but the boys sound more confident on follow-up releases. Little Metal Baby Fist sees the guys grow in confident and conviction. The title track is more anthemic and rushing- embers of Dookie-era Green Day come through- and plenty of anthemic lust pounds through. Subjects change slightly here- they are more open; angrier and more varied. There are personal attacks and balls-to-the-walls venom, yet Hate Is A Stone begins relaxed and slithering: cooing and calm vocals give the song a Blues-infused and developed sound- before it mutates into something rougher and more livid. The Dirty Nil managed to update their sound and layer in more sound and attack- as well as play with other genres. Whereas their debut looked at pure Punk and Metal, Little Metal’ broadens the pallete and sees them experiment: their overall quality and voice does not lose anything; instead the songs come across as more confident- the performances are tighter and harder. Smite sees yet more development: as with Cinnamon, the band embrace Grunge elements of the ’90s. Nicotine‘s pummel and dark matter shadows mix Nevermind-era Nirvana into their mix: the vocal performances have scratch, bloodlust and inflamed passion- the same sort that Cobain lacerated and perfected. The production values are clearer and stronger: the compositions and vocals are a little cleaner and it sounds more professional- again, nothing is watered-down or given short-shrift. Pale Blue sees our frontman stretch his vocal range and employ more emotions into music- than had been seen on earlier cuts. The band as a whole seems determined and comfortable: the music comes across more natural and organic- the trio are hitting their peak. In essence, the core elements of The Dirty Nil remain; the band themselves have matured and grown- their subjects and song topics are more varied as a result.
If you are looking for comparable acts then you have a few choices- the Canadians do not sound like anyone else, though elements and flavours of others are detectable. The vocal belts and roars of The Hives, Pixies and Nirvana can be heard in The Dirty Nil’s music: that mix of ’80s and ’90s Grunge and ’00s Rock come through succinctly. Bentham has plenty of primal lust in his voice to suggest that he could have been a key figure in the Grunge movement: whether inspired by the likes of Cobain and Black Francis, I am not sure- one suspects that he is. The Ramones’ Punk spirit makes its feelings known in the band’s early work: anyone who is a fan of the bygone legends can find something to enjoy here. Muse’s more bombastic days- not that they every recorded anything reserved or subtle- can be extrapolated in the trio’s current work: think Black Holes and Revelations-cum-Origins of Symmetry. When the band pummel and crawl; Bentham lets his voice scream and strike, you can hear some of Nick Oliveri’s rampant lustre: if you adored his contributions to Rated R and Songs for the Deaf (by Queens of the Stone Age) then check out the three-piece. Nothing too familiar or stayed presents itself in the trio’s collections: the whiffs and embers of other acts are incorporated, but the guys have their own sense of direction and freshness that comes to life in each of their tracks.
Before I get down to reviewing Cinnamon, The Dirty Nil have offered a disclaimer:
“We lied about something with this brand new single. What would we lie about? The Dirty Nil would lie about the amount of drink tickets the venue has already given us, finding a dead body, their guitars being made of fudge, being body snatchers, turning down our amps, our true concern for the feeling of others, being compulsive liars, and really a million things. But none of those lies apply to the new single. Satan told us to, Jesus told us to, your mom told us to.”
There is no word of a lie or misstep from the opening seconds: feedback and a count-in quickly give way to a pressing and determined vocal. Bentham unleashes his inner Kurt Cobain/Billie Joe Armstrong: that Grunge undertone and Punk lust enforces early words and ensures that the song gets straight inside of your head. Cinnamon has some ambiguous and intriguing lines to digest: they could be referencing U.S. political agendas or speculating about the fate of a friendship. The song’s title- whether used as a person’s name or something less personal- comes into effect immediately. Our hero sounds regretful as he admits that “I let you down again“- one suspects that Bentham is speaking of behalf of the song’s subject- rather than offering any personal confession. Our hero is pretty messed up when he is with his friends; maybe being lead down a bad road, the worst aspects comes through when in their company- my mind starts to wonder whether foreign political relations are under the microscope. Maybe I am looking for hidden meaning, but you cannot deny the conviction and sense of detachment that comes through in the line “You can be pissed off if you want to.” The band combines wonderfully in the opening moments: Nardi’s bass propels the song and adds a hell of a kick into the bargain- taut and tight the one second, it then transforms into something more aggressive and direct. Fisher’s drumming ensures that the track never loses that sense of raw energy and flair: the boys jam splendidly together and you get the sense that the sticks man is having quite a ball here- the performance is tight and focused yet allows a sense of fun to come through. Bentham’s guitar shred and strikes: viper-like, it stings and retracts; allowing the Richter scale to climb ever higher, he unveils a hailstorm of power and domination. The vocal mutates from a (relatively) measured and impassioned line to something more carnivorous and enraged. The song’s subject is all at home alone; our hero is out “with a smile“- my thoughts reassessed, you feel something more personal is being dealt with. The frontman makes sure that he restrains himself and does not let his inner passion explode too soon: the vocal is decipherable and clear so that his middle-finger-to-you mandates can be understood and heard. An odd- or perhaps completely intentional- catchiness rings through by the 1:00 mark: you are familiar with the course of events; the effusive and passionate band performance is captivating and swelling. By the time Bentham has reinstated that chorus (“You can be pissed off if you want to“), a growl and screech is elicited: a mazy and delirious solo is cut loose, to allow the electricity levels to soar. Hawk-like it swoops and attacks; retreating and reloading, the guitar buzz has teeth and a sharp tail- it mutates and evolves as the seconds tick on. Touches of Queens of the Stone Age and Jack White come through: you could imagine Homme or White wanting to snap up such a pterodactyl riff; one which weaves and moans- before the chorus line come back in for a few more strikes. By the final re-injection of the angry mantra, Bentham’s voice croaks and practically dries completely (as Cobain did by the end of Territorial Pissings): maybe intentionally done, but a clear breaking point is reached. Not content to leave the song there, feedback and elongated guitar hangs in the air: acting as a sonic scream, it carries off from where our hero called it a day- and ensures that Cinnamon ends as potently as it began. With its effects being felt long after it has completed, Cinnamon is a track designed to bounce around your head: it holds mystery, oblique potential and plenty of energy and passion. I have mentioned Nirvana’s Nevermind a few times- I understand that the Seattle legends cannot be toppled here, but lend their influence out- and The Dirty Nil fit comfortably into this mould. They are not simply trying to rewrite history or include a further hidden track into the 1991 masterpiece: they are their own men and have a distinct and native soul. If Cobain’s spirit lingers in some of the vocals, then Punk masters contribute to the lyrics: that sense of rebellion, detachment, anger and defiance is giving a fresh coat of paint and new lease of life. One of the great things about the track is the open nature of the words: at first I felt that political issues were being batted about; towards the middle of the song, events turned to personal and introverted quarters. The band themselves know just what they are trying to say, yet cleverly leave space for the listener to write their own version- everyone will have a different movie scene projected against their mind. Displaying a knack for precision and concision, The Dirty Nil get everything off of their chest in two-and-a-bit minutes: so much weight and ground is packed into the song, that it can be quite dizzying. Of course the trio have every intention to disorientate and intoxicate: the performance is determined and hard-hitting to the max: each player steps up to the challenge and makes sure that the listener is sucked into their vortex of song. Highlighting the leap forward the band have taken, the production is solid and clean; the sound is a lot deeper, richer and more developed than their embryonic days- the performance are especially confident and convincing. Whether this is a one-off apparition or a sign of what their future holds, it is great to hear a young band that are so mobile and prolific: their output is not only consistent and impressive but they manage to cover a wide spectrum without ever compromising their intuition and D.N.A. Few U.K.-based acts have a knack for blending genres and periods of music: three decades and three genres are incorporated within Cinnamon– I am sure that upon hearing the song, some of our homegrown bands will find inspiration and direction. It is not the fact that groups here are more mature and reserved, it is just the fact that we can not do youthful dissatisfaction and Punk-ridden anger that well: there are a few groups that can but many more come across as petulant and insincere.
Cinnamon is a fresh and spoiling cut that is perfect for the summer heat: the sweat will already be on your brow; The Dirty Nils offer even more- ensuring your senses sizzle and erupt. It is a short and stout track that has a headrush personality that you cannot help but embrace and appreciate. I am sure that the Canadian band are going to be thinking of a new release: it would be nice to hear an album from the trio. Smite was the band’s last record (released in February): a five-track E.P./mini-album, the songs within showed how confident and assured the boys are. Nicotine and Pale Blue clock in at under two minutes; the songs get into your head and are deep with evocative spirit and glory. The remaining trio of numbers have humour, wit, spark and dirt in various parts- it is a stunning and bold release that has resonated hard with critics and fans alike. Previous releases Little Metal Baby Fist, F*ck School and Fuckin’ Up Young show just how far the group have come in the last three years- that Alternative-Grunge/Indie-Punk blend set the trio out as one of the most engaging and important acts in the world. Bentham proves himself to be one of the most urgent and powerful vocalists on the scene: his twisting and belting voice summons up a huge amount of passion and force; with its original tones and unique sense of adventure, it is a wonderful thing. Fisher and Nardi offer ample support: the percussion is hard-hitting, primal and emotive; the bass notes drive events forward and offer depth and resonance. The future months will be prosperous ones for The Dirty Nil. Cinnamon demonstrates just how strong and determined they are as a band: few other like-minded acts whip up some a festival of sound, energy and memorability. The guys are embarking upon their first tour of America’s West Coast. Having rocked, enthralled and seduced their native country, the trio are determined to put their stamp on the U.S.- it will not be too long until they start to get a lot more focus and attention. I hope they- I know I say this about every international act- come across to the U.K. soon: I have seen other similar acts (from abroad) arrive here and succeed; grow their fan base and come away with a new sense of inspiration and purpose- it will be great to see The Dirty Nil in the live environment. There is still too little recklessness- that is to say that youthful energy and abandon- that synonymized the Punk scene of days gone: there are acts like Royal Blood that can offer the same kind of force- our heroes’ lyrics and mandates provide something that extra bit more exciting and effusive. Competition is always going to be high- plenty will take a while to latch onto a band’s potential- so making sure you impressive as early as possible is vital. The Dirty Nil have made solid and emphatic opening statements: their current work is among their very finest moments- it seems that momentum is high. There are plenty of acts- that employ heavy sounds- with no sense of direction: too many loose ends hang out and they are more concerned with decibels than nuance and excellent songwriting. Our trio crank up the volume to eleven, but also establish themselves with their assured and dominant sound- it will be fascinating to see where their music takes them next. With credit and reviews still coming in for Smite– their current E.P.- it may be a few more months before any album/E.P. plans are speculated. Seek out and investigate Smite, but make sure you attune your ears to Cinnamon: few more urgent and memorable tracks…
WILL arrive this year.
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