Nomeansno are a group of contradictions. The brothers Wright grew up in British Columbia apparently listening to jazz and prog rock, but by the time they came to form the band punk had detonated like a dayglo nuke up and down the West coast of America. Starting out with just bass, drums and vocals they developed a style that was as progressive and arresting as it was influential. By the time they recorded ‘Wrong’, their fourth album, they had it absolutely nailed.
It’s a killer. By turns fiendishly complex and frenziedly heads-down it’s nonetheless never less than a gripping, white-knuckle ride. By this point the band were a three piece, with guitarist and co-singer Andy Kerr, credited here as ‘None of your fucking business’, helping to hone the slashing edge of their chainsaw punk. The playing, through the twists and turns and switching signatures, is exhilaratingly tight.
Their success is in resolving so many polar opposites within their music and lyrics to such an irresistible synthesis. Their sound is bass-driven and spiky yet shackles both jazz-crazed changes in tempo and operatic high drama within its blistering body blows. Conceptually Nomeansno are both too smart for their own metaphysical good and as dumb as a bag of hammers (or a bunch of teenage hockey hooligans – see their alter egos The Hanson Brothers). They simultaneously lay bare the human condition in all its bleakness whilst driving home a clear conviction that the only way to deal with the inevitability of our own annihilation is to blow a raspberry in its face and laugh. The gleeful wordplay and controlled goofiness that would characterise them from this point on begins to come to the fore on ‘Wrong’, but it is never overplayed, taking a back seat to the sheer, joyful rush of the band’s giddy, whirling, jabbering, slam-dancing noise.
Tom Listened: I was surprised by how much I liked this. When I first met Rob, back in the late 80s, he was very much the hardcore king (musically at least…not sure about his other interests) and I must admit that I had assumed Nomeansno were just another one of Rob’s ‘bleak shouty bands’ that were prevalent at that time. The reality was much more melodic, humourous and interesting than I was expecting suggesting that either Nomeansno are not one of Rob’s ‘bleak shouty bands’ or that Rob’s ‘bleak shouty bands’ are not actually all that bleak or shouty. The vocals very much reminded me of D Boon from The Minutemen (ie not shouty at all), and whilst the guitars do sound driving there are enough variations in texture and tone to make them a riveting listen, at times reminding me of X at their most exuberant, elsewhere reminiscent of the Stooges at their Dirtiest. I’m not sure whether it is down to the fact that Wrong reminded me of the Minutemen or not but I expected the songs to be much shorter than they were, and maybe I would have preferred it if some of them had been a little punchier, but that small criticism aside, this earned a sizeable (and unexpected) ‘thumbs up’ from me.
Nick listened: I was surprised too, especially as Rob seemed to think, mischievously, that I’d hate it! In fact I liked it so much that I bought it online before we’d even got quite to the end of it. I heard pre-echoes of Kyuss, of Dismemberment Plan, and post-echoes of some of Miles Davis’ more rampantly aggressive 70s electric material (bits of Dark Magus, Live:Evil). I’ve listened to it once since it arrived, in the car, and enjoyed it again.