A rare record which is track for track diverse, but consistent.
These days melodic punk music is often mistaken, sometimes with good reason, for pop music. The difference lies in the sincerity, however, and the latest from San Francisco band Nothington is nothing if not believable. Vocal responsibilities on In the End are shared between Jay Northington and Chris Matulich, the founders of the band who both seem to have been classmates in The Art of the Anthemic, Raspy Howl 101 — a course possibly taught by The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon or possibly Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace. Either way, all of the eleven tracks on this record pound through beautifully rendered, meaningful lyrics sung out with the conviction of guys who lived these emotions before committing them to a recording studio. There are no contrivances or melodrama here.
From the opening drums of “Already There”, a pace is set which doesn’t let up for 40 minutes. There’s a dim reverb on the sound and it appears muted for the first verse. Setting out on the record that way only makes it more high impact when the guitars finally go full throttle only a minute later. The track is restrained somewhat by verses which hold back just enough to build anticipation for the powerful, melodic soaring chorus — a signature we find throughout the entire album.
“Cobblestones,” an easy first hit from the record will undoubtedly receive lots of repeat play in those early days before the listener commits to exploring the record in its fullest. It explores the fairly pedestrian themes of the nostalgia of a lost relationship but frames it in a highly charged, constantly dynamic anthem with lines like “I’m trying to accept / I’m no stranger to regrets / trying to relive / all the nights I don’t remember that we spent / walking on cobblestones / now I spend my time alone” and later “I’m so tired / I’m so tired / I’m so tired”. It becomes hard to detect which of the two are actually doing the vocals. In some case cases it appears to be both. Add to the the perfectly structured harmonization and you’ve got the recipe for a strong release with a great deal of punk longevity ahead of it.
“The Lies I Need” is the first video single from the album and again features the band powering forward with loud winding guitars, uplifting hope in the form of melody and the first track that one might understandably mistake for a pop song in a sleeve of tattoos. “Burn After Reading” takes a little bit of a break from the relentless pace while still offering up some raw power in its meaty hook.
Borrowing the same recording studio used by Propaghandi, the band also seemed to summon some of their penchant for raw, growling production. Every note of the record from harmonies to guitar feedback is spotlessly mixed for optimal angry head-nodding. There’s also elements of fast punk like “The Hard Way” which, except for the chorus, could be a song slammed right out of the NOFX playbook.
Like contemporaries Off With Their Heads and Banner Pilot, Nothington deliver a rare record which is track for track diverse, but consistent. Every song is hard but entirely dialled into well-written and considered themes of love, loss and self-reflection. It’s 2017s most relentlessly rocking punk record so far. The urgency with which its written doesn’t just deserve your time and attention, it demands it. Get on it.