Music Review: The Great Dismal

The Great Dismal, opens a new window by Nothing
Want to listen to an hour of early 90s college radio all at once? The Great Dismal, Nothing’s fourth studio album, feels and sounds like the place where underground goth and dream pop music morphed into more rock-influenced mainstream alternative. Wearing its influences like chandeliers, The Great Dismal is a hazy and claustrophobic navel gaze that marries post-punk, neo-psychedelic and shoegaze. 

“A Fabricated Life” starts the album in a fog punctuated with a clear and ringing repetitive guitar, harkening back to a place between Seventeen Seconds and Faith-era Cure. Another Cure influenced song, “Bernie Sanders,” sounds like a less depressing outtake from Pornography, an album revered by Cure fans. “Bernie Sanders” is more pleading than other songs on The Great Dismal yet features an eerie and discomfiting scraping sound that worms its way into your ear canal.

The album’s strongest offering, “Famine Asylum,” starts off with Cure influences before veering into Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins territory. With indistinct lyrics reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine and Ride, this song showcases what Nothing is doing right, resurrecting some of the 90s’ heaviest dreamers at the height of their output. 

Songs like “Say Less” feature Placebo-esque vocals (one of the attributes Placebo is best known for) under a more aggressive guitar -- for Nothing -- with drums higher in the mix. “April HaHa” is 90s alternative all the way with Afghan Whigs drums and swirling shoegaze guitars. Again the lyrics are laid under a sea of brume, the listener knowing they’re there even as they barely reach the surface. Muddled vocals are one of Nothing’s signature phenomena. Songs like “Catch a Fade” that feature less buried vocals, are in turn forgettable.

While not entirely original, this album is consistently listenable and enjoyable if dreary contemplation with a side of jingle jangle and aggression is your thing. - Jami (Downtown)