Review Summary: Do we really want it?
However much you might not like alternative rock or anything the radio puts out, Nothing More is a band you have to give a solid amount of respect to. It takes a certain level of confidence to stylize your band as this fist-raising, rebellious group bent on preaching and critiquing opinions about world issues, modern society and sticking it to the man. It takes even more confidence to do that while squeezing yourself into a very well-worn genre that has already seen its fair share of bands try to do just that. But Nothing More have persisted nonetheless with a strong catalog of singles and a couple solid albums that somehow hold up to entire listens without becoming exhausting. And unlike certain other rock groups (Rise Against being my go-to culprit for this), they actually try something new and branch out a bit musically rather than play the same sounds into the ground. Their latest album The Stories We Tell Ourselves
seeks to once again supply listeners with a fresh batch of heavy-hitting rock tracks, this time with an even heavier dose of electronics.
The real strength of this band, one which continues here, is the energy they can pack into a song. That’s an area a whole host of modern rock bands tend to falter in. “Go to War” was a smart choice for lead single. It’s different enough to avoid being called a re-hash of their Self-Titled
, while structured in exactly the way that made songs on that album memorable; slick guitar-work, passionate vocals that juggle the stop-start dynamic of the song well and a chorus that walks the talk. “Ripped Apart” has that heavy Tool-esque groove in the early sections that worked well on much of the first half of the self-titled. The vocals here particularly standout with Jonny Hawkins bouncing effortlessly between ferocious growls and fluttering borderline-falsettos. The finish on this track is also as mighty as any of the standouts on past albums. “Who We Are” also proves successful despite the simplicity with which it was constructed. It spices things up with a powerful bridge and lightning-fast riffs capping off its choruses.
But it’s hard to ignore the fact that many of the ideas at work here fall flat, and unfortunately balance out the good. The first half is littered with hit-or-miss nu-metal influence by the numbers. When it doesn’t work (“Do You Really Want It?” or “Let ‘em Burn”), it has the same stomach-churning feeling fans of Periphery often get when Spencer Sotelo goes off on weird tangents with his voice. Elsewhere, acoustic ballad “Just Say When” feels like that time Linkin Park tried a purely acoustic song on their 2010 album A Thousand Suns
, but at least comes off slightly more listenable than “The Messenger”. It’s undeniably misplaced here. Earlier ballad “Still in Love” starts well enough, but ends up in this schmaltzy, modern-day Incubus sound by the chorus and goes virtually no where interesting through its entirety after that. Maybe the biggest offender of all is the dangling carrot of an opening interlude that contains muffled, energetic and chaotic screams/samples to get you hyped up only to lead into an awkward track (“Do You Really Want It?”) with its confusingly quiet intro and ultimately average opening riff.
Nothing More are a very good rock band capable of offering a bit more bite than your average radio rock these days without going overboard. But the topics they choose to write about (politics, war, and society’s unwillingness to look introspectively and change) are inherently fragile and risky in the sense that if the listener isn’t bought into them, it’s very hard to keep their attention or have them take the entire experience seriously after that. On 2014’s self-titled album, they were able to overcome that with memorable hooks, blistering moments of sheer intensity, and a general control for quality across the album. Here, the over-the-top aggression, failed experiments and questionable influences are all too glaring and weigh the album down as a result. For every highlight or positive moment, there are moments like that high-pitched whiny thing Jonny does with his voice to kick off single “Don’t Stop” that make you raise an eyebrow. And, as a result, the overall experience falls somewhere smack in the middle of enjoyable and headache-inducing. Nothing less. Nothing more.