Ah, the age-old balance between the jagged, dirty edges of rock and the polish, apparently, required to make a commercial success of this left of mainstream universe we all inhabit. Get it right, and radio and playlists and such stardom-related “things” await… yet, to play that game too much and for too long is to risk losing the soul and joy that is at the heart of the art that got you there in the first place. So, seemingly as a response to the more contrived, collaborative, and involved process that led to their predecessor Fuck Art, alternative rockers The Dirty Nil have given themselves over to their natural instincts, indulging a Free Rein To Passions (Dine Alone) on their fourth album.
And that freedom is evident from the off as the Nil open things up with a nod and a tribute to Power Trip in ‘Celebration’. OK, despite a bit of chug and squeal things don’t go full thrash, but this rowdy first slab ends up sounding like classic Warrior Soul (themselves the single most underrated rock/punk band of all time, a slot The Dirty Nil may be on track to poach for themselves), before switching to a poppier pairing of ‘Nicer Guy’ and ‘Undefeated’, tracks that sound like they could have been staples alongside New Found Glory and Weezer on noughties music TV, albeit with a little more, ahem, welcome Scuzz to their make-up. Meanwhile ‘Stupid Jobs’ would follow ‘Wish You Well’ and ‘1990’ could crash in right after Green Day and we wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
Sitting somewhere between the wild abandon and unbridled promise of Higher Power and the poppier celebration of their last offering isn’t a bad place to be. The noise rock abrasion and slacker lyrical focus is still there, roughing up a cool collection of rock, punk, and grunged songs: the spiky ‘Land of Clover’ and the title track achieve the nirvana (sic) of a brash clash of chords and earworms, while ‘Atomise Me’ and ‘The Light The Void and Everything’ play a more reflective and dramatic role.
So, how do you achieve that age-old balance of catchy, from the gut successful rock that leads to a strong album with integrity and a slew of good tunes that encapsulate everything you are as a band?
Turns out, you just need to give Free Rein To (your) Passions, Fuck Art, don’t overthink it, and play what comes naturally and you’ll do more than fine. The kids are still alright.
Buy the album here:
8 / 10