Review Summary: It’s catching up, I’m fucked
It didn’t take some grandiose epiphany for Wrong
to commandeer my ears and whittle away at my conscience, unlike some other albums I regard as “classic.” Little by little, the Canadian post-hardcore band opened up for me: deeper layers of complexity appeared, reasons to appreciate the band became evident. Wrong
is a classic, and album that easily traverses genre borders but manages to skirt definition, all the while exuding a compressed intensity that becomes a little more naked with each listen.
The issue isn’t that Wrong is some deep, ethereal experience of an album that requires meditation to get
. Far from it. Unabashed in its simplicity, Nomeansno are straightforward and ever-aggressive, though in a positive manner where their anger isn’t quite directed towards anyone or anywhere in particular. It’s a quality that makes the album all the more relatable and listenable, even if this wasn’t a conscious decision made by the Canadians.
Likewise, the lyrics are an obvious highlight. The jarring rhythms and spastic character of the riffs follow the lead of the vocals and vice versa, as Rob Wright soulfully belts out distinct, well-pronounced yells. Unlike some of their contemporaries who strived for the whole “clear message and agenda” schtick, the themes on Wrong
are scattered-brained, but sincere. After countless listens, the entirety of the lyrics scream “Hey fu
ck it, we know it’s a punk record... why act like it’s more?” to me, and this fits perfectly, even given the tidbits of one-liner-wisdom strewn throughout.
Nomeansno have often been heralded as a “progressive” band for their ability to pull in elements of funk, metal, and hardcore, but saying so almost seems redundant... isn’t that a quintessential tenet of post-hardcore, anyway? What should
be fawned over is the band’s ability to do so naturally. Consider the funky bassline in “Big Dick” combined with the track’s metallic, driving power and odd, reggae beat in the center, for good measure. I’m less impressed by the singular ingredients than I am by the finished product: a stylistically amazing and aesthetically raw centerpiece of early 90s punk music that never sacrifices a cinch of intensity or creativity.
“The Tower,” a perfect track if I’ve ever heard one, acts as a sort of microcosm for Wrong.
The percussion opens up with a mechanical simplicity, but as the rabid coughing and screams gain momentum, the musicianship begins to morph and unhinge, weirdly reminiscent of the most organic and freewheeling Minutemen tracks. In this way, Nomeansno were just as much a product of the mid-80s (think: Dead Kennedys, Big Black) as they were a band in the 90s.
It would be worthless to act like Nomeansno represents some bastion of quality compared to today’s shi
t post-hardcore scene. Doing so would be slander against Wrong
, an album that doesn’t claim to be anything more than it is and ends all the better for it. Fu
ck it... we know it’s just a punk record... why act like it’s more?