The Nation Blue return. Holy shit. Engaging, intense and relevant. Nothing else released this year even comes close.
If you don’t know who they are…well…your loss. I’ll be assigning homework at the end of this review to ensure it never happens again. (no I wont)
They are known for a style of aggressive social and politically focussed music that bridges a gap between noise-rock and hardcore. It has melody, it has chords, it has screaming and spoken word, feedback and noise. It sounds nothing like any other band. They are in a league of their own. Take Sonic Youth/Midnight Oil and The Mark Of Cain..roll it all together = Nation Blue. (if you don’t know those names..then you’re clearly under 25 and need to google some shit)
This review looks only at one of the two albums released simultaneously titled ‘Black’. The other being ‘Blue’ and no it’s not a double album. In contrast..this is just two albums released in tandem cos they’re just that good.
Fucking Nation Blue. They take a break for 7 years…do a bunch of other stuff like bands, jobs, family etc and then just get back and record two albums. Probably, if im to be honest, when they are needed the most.
So with ‘Black’ the highlights are among the strongest and most confronting I’ve ever heard from them.
Opener ‘I Have No Representatives’ is a brilliant vocal only piece that puts it bluntly…our political figures do not represent all of us. Its amazing. Left me with no breath the first time I heard it.
‘Erectile Dysfunction’ almost drones. The two notes just ring out over and over until the drums and bass kick it into gear. The chorus ‘whats wrong with you is wrong with me’ is a sticky one.
‘Australia Day’ deals with the irritating flag bearing white patriots who ignore the disgraceful history behind the day and current juxtaposition of our nations treatment of refugee’s.
‘Negative Space’ is like a bad trip to begin with. Tom is speaking in paces and hitting discordant notes and sounds. The mid-way mark see’s the band snap back to form with a serrating riff that cuts and changes key whilst progressively getting messier and louder. Perfect.
‘Great White Death’ is an absolute ball tearer full of anger, searing feedback and a pummelling rhythm that cycles through. It’s a throw back at least style wise to some of the bands earlier angles and ends all too soon.
‘Wild’ is my favourite track on this record and one of the earliest songs lifted from either Black/Blue to the announced the bands return. The clip that accompanied it shows Tom walking through the forest singing the song and it’s all a bit vague…rrrrright until the end with it’s closing shot and final phrase ‘I wanna live wild’. Bloody hell Nation Blue.
‘Mansion Family’ starts with what sounds like a guitar sound check. Raw and candid. The chords and pace are subdued and gives a break to the experimental and intense material before it. The hook ‘I feel a cold change is coming’ matches the dark and sombre tone of the song.
Sonically this record is a bit out of the ordinary. Recorded in a giant hall, it sounds about as live and loud as you ‘d imagine. The short behind-the-scenes vid that the band put out in announcement of their return showed the band performing in a great big room and talked about the sounds they were getting. A lot of that reverb, roomy echo and boom makes this sound quite different to the bands previous efforts.
Tom and Matt’s vocals for one are sounding as distant and un-processed as ever. It sounds almost as if they recorded the vocals through a mega phone or a school PA system. The bass is dirty and growls with intensity. There are occasionally some runaway frequencies which will give your guts a little shake..and the guitars are sheer and harsh. The clean sounds are mostly untouched whilst the noise and distortion that adorns the majority of the album is just magic. Drums are epic…they sound live but more controlled than the other elements. The playing is dead set solid and includes some great moments of restraint and ambience making the explosive and unrelenting assault of the heavier moments all the more powerful.
I fucking love this band. This album is an important piece of opposition to our current social and political climate. There’s some indecipherable tracks which will require reading lyric sheets and others where references to our capital territory, policy and social issues ring through loud and clear.
‘Black’ is out now through Poison City on CD, digital and vinyl. There’s some neat bundles available too for those interested in going in on both albums at once. Me.. I’ll be digesting them one at a time to take it all in.