Review Summary: A gnarled, distorted respite from sanity.
Have you ever been so far removed from the reality of a situation that you can’t even make sense of it anymore? What started as the smallest of triggers erupted into a full-blown meltdown, and now you can’t tell whether you’re angry, sad, confused, or too numb to even identify what the hell you are. That indefinable sensation is a lot like Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s fifth album, Rot Gut, Domestic
. Unstably swaying to and fro like a vehicle precariously balanced on a cliff ledge, it plants one foot firmly in reality while leaving the other dangling and threatening to lose balance completely. For a band that started out in more of an indie singer/songwriter vein, they have managed to evolve quite a bit with each successive release. Buzzard
was the first that suggested a departure from soft-spoken hipster rock, occasionally offering fuzzy and borderline grungy tunes that showed more of an abrasive side. If that was the initial tick in Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s cuckoo clock, then Rot Gut, Domestic
is somewhere between that unhinged beginning and the deranged final straw.
For those now expecting something completely off-the-wall, I must offer a few words of caution though. Even though the Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s of 2012 barely resemble the delicate introspective craftsmen that wrote The Dust of Retreat
, this is still a band in transition. For all of the scuzzy, agitated jams such as ‘Disease Tobacco Free’ and hazy blues songs like ‘Shannon’, there are still fragile ballads to counterbalance the aggression. Just take ‘A Journalist Falls In Love’ for example, an acoustic endeavor that tells the story of a reporter who falls in love with the serial killer whose story she is following. Okay, so maybe these moments don’t make them completely
normal, but the point is that Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s haven’t quite taken the leap yet. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it gives Rot Gut, Domestic
more variety than it would have had if the band just went balls-out crazy and released twelve tracks of noisy lo-fi grunge rock.
The album’s greatest strength lies within its ability to transition between drastic style changes without missing a beat – something that Buzzard
failed to do in a noticeable way. Rot Gut, Doemstic
like an album, and its cohesion adds to the sense that all of this fuzzy discordance has a point. The lyrics are often indecipherable amidst the distortion, but let’s be honest - sometimes the illusion of something profound can still be an effective motivator. That’s exactly what listeners of this album can expect: cacophonic noise overshadowing the blasting riffs and infectious melodies that make Rot Gut, Domestic
seem like something more than hazy, indistinct clatter. Sometimes you might be left wondering if the album would be better had it chosen a side (either all out aggression or all out accessibility), but the no man’s land in which Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s currently reside proves to be a unique experience for listeners of all tastes and backgrounds.
There are no songs that truly stand out, which to some may be an insurmountable flaw – but to be honest, Rot Gut, Domestic
is much better off as a collection of above average tracks that flow together to form a more purposeful big picture. This is the sound of a band that has hit its stride, and releasing twelve extremely consistent songs on one album is no small feat these days. Also, the rougher edge that Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s appear to be gravitating towards over the course of their past two releases doesn’t need
a big hit; it needs exactly what it gets with this album - consistency. So while many will cling to songs with more clarity like ‘Frank Left’ and ‘Coonskin Cap’, there will hopefully be a party of equal or greater size that embraces the creepy ‘Shannon’ and the loose-cannon that is ‘The Devil.’ Of course for those who are up for anything that Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s come up with, this could very well be heaven.
In the end, what we have is a record that pushes towards an extremely promising new direction while still managing to maintain the band’s adored personality. There isn’t necessarily more
of one style than the other, it’s just an evenhanded blend that refuses to be one hundred percent jarring or one hundred percent listenable at any time. Admirably, Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s achieve this balance without any of their material seeming forced or preconceived; they never apologize for their uglier side and they never attempt to put a darker spin on their more easygoing acoustic songs. Rot Gut, Domestic
is Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s just rocking the fuck out and doing whatever they please. The only question is when they finally go off the deep end, will you follow them?