Review: Nothing, 'Tired Of Tomorrow'
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No one can rewrite the past. We all carry around regrets and tragedies that haunt our memories or creep back into our lives if we let them. But one of the best ways to keep the demons at bay is to funnel that pain into art. Domenic Palermo, guitarist and singer of the Philly band Nothing, knows this better than most.
To escape a rough upbringing and the dangerous neighborhoods of North Philadelphia, Palermo turned to music, playing in the hardcore band Horror Show as an outlet for his frustrations. But just as the group was picking up steam in the late '90s and early 2000s, his plans imploded: Palermo served a two-year prison sentence on an aggravated-assault charge, and another five on parole. After his release, Palermo had all but given up music for a workaday life of uncertainty and reexamination. Feeling adrift, he eventually began making music again, almost as a last-ditch attempt at salvation, and soon formed the band Nothing with guitarist and singer Brandon Setta, drummer Kyle Kimball and bassist Nick Bassett. The band's debut album, 2014's Guilty Of Everything, addressed that lost time, alluding to sins and desperation set against a beautiful blur of distortion, frenetic drumming and voices submerged in windswept static.
In spite of that record's numerous accolades and the band's rising profile, more trouble awaited. Following a Nothing show in Oakland, Palermo was mugged and violently attacked, leaving him with extensive injuries — including fractures in his skull and spine — and extended hospital stays for rehabilitation. As if that weren't enough, last fall Palermo learned of the accidental death of his estranged father. Nothing's follow-up, Tired Of Tomorrow, can't help but be influenced by this tumultuous period; its 10 songs delve into anxiety and addiction, mental illness and mortality, while channeling anguish — both physical and emotional — into catharsis.
"Vertigo Flowers" documents the bouts of vertigo and reality-warping paranoia Palermo experienced as a result of his head injuries and brain trauma. "Watch out for those who dare to say that everything will be okay," he sings as a dizzying wash of guitars collides with a flurry of drum hits that ratchet up the tension. "They're coming for me," he adds. "Eaten By Worms" practically laughs in the face of despair, letting go of worrying over the things he can't control and moving forward. Evoking Nirvana, it erupts with glorious power chords. When the song shifts once more, Palermo describes life's unpredictability and the inevitability of death: "It's unavailable, it's irresistible, it's educational, it's recreational, it's confrontational, it's inescapable, it's so practical, yet so magical, it's unavoidable," he sings with a shrug amid the spare pulse of piano.
Nothing's cryptically worded lyrics can be tricky to parse under the feedback, yet Setta and Palermo don't shy away from examining flaws, or admitting their complicity in poisoning relationships by making the same mistakes. "Can someone find a cure, because you know me and you know I am not well / I always knew I'd eventually hurt you," they sing in the scorching "ACD (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)." "I will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth."
Recorded with Will Yip, Tired Of Tomorrow is another powerful batch of messy-yet-dreamy songs: The rippling sheets of guitar noise in "Fever Queen" and the sludgy "Curse Of The Sun" show that this is a band that loves its '90s shoegaze, alternative rock and even spacious black metal. But Nothing also diversifies its formula. "Nineteen Ninety Heaven" kicks off with a big, heavy rock beat, leaving listeners to anticipate another mighty onslaught that never comes. Instead, Palermo and Setta settle into a dazed calm defined by brightly chiming strums adorned with strings. Later, "Everyone Is Happy" sways gently with a crisp acoustic guitar while piano and atmospheric reverberations amplify the feeling of drifting to sleep in a haze of meds. After Guilty Of Everything's darkness, these flourishes add depth to the squalor and leave room for the songs to breathe.
A stark piano lament, the title track unfolds slowly with a lovely cello and strings as they sing, "Stranded in today, clawing from the outside / And I'm tired of tomorrow on the inside." It's a line that could come off as a melodramatic and morose. And yet Tired Of Tomorrow's arc — from anger and suffering to surrendering oneself to achieve some peace of mind — finds Nothing singing from an almost reassuring place of hope, carved out one day at a time.
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