Higher Power’s listening experience is more confusing than enjoyable.
The Dirty Nil’s Higher Power is a bunch of songs that are a damn good time. They’re heavily distorted, feedback-laden, headbop-inducing and stuffed with purposefully careless vocals that talk a lot of shit. What else could you ask for from a band hell-bent on bringing back grudge, ‘90s alt, garage rock and sometimes even punk?
Well, honestly? A more cohesive record—something that makes sense.
Yes, Higher Power’s individual parts are hellacious fun. But then the record ends. After that—because of the album’s disjointed nature—the only time you’ll come back to those individual parts is if one of them pops up on a shuffled playlist.
To be clear, there’s nothing really “wrong” with these songs. It’s that the album itself is just a bit less than memorable. For all intents and purposes, every track works. Take “Zombie Eyed,” for instance: it’s heavy, Weezer-influenced rock. Luke Bentham’s yell/sing vocal barrage adds a grit to the mixture. There’s a ton of feedback on the track that tops it off with an extra dollop of cacophony. And, when it ends, you’ll feel damn good about the listening experience. Solid song.
“Wrestle Yu to Husker Du” is much the same. It’s a punishing display of pop-minded power chords played just south of midtempo. It’s a summery tune. Something to play while driving around with the windows down around dinner time. Something with which to show your neighbors, yeah, you dig a catchy chorus, but you also still rock ‘n’ roll with the best of ‘em. It’s perfect for its circumstances. It’s all-around fun.
Then “Lowlives” kicks in—which, by the way, is a good tune in its own right. It’s raw, gritty and nasty (all of which is fairly easy to get behind), but it doesn’t belong on this record. And that’s Higher Power’s biggest flaw—it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Each song is microcosmically sound, but the album as a whole suffers from being more a collection of tunes than a well thought out rock album. Which is a real shame because of songs like “Friends in the Sky” with its radio rock chord progression, vaguely folksy lead guitars and brainworm chorus.
“Know Your Rodent”—which is more or less a So Much for the Afterglow-era Everclear homage—could have been the centerpiece of a record with a focus on rewiring influences for righteous genre rejuvenation. But, no, that momentum is lost with follow-up track, “Fugue State.” And “Fugue State” is nothing more than an angry, gnarly punk song that does exactly what an angry, gnarly punk song is supposed to do. But it has no place here. That lack of focus makes homages like “Know Your Rodent” and “Zombie Eyed” feel like rip-offs instead of attempts to get an old wheel spinning again. It cheapens the whole thing, making Higher Power feel cobbled together like a poorly executed B-sides collection.
Despite High Power’s lack of cohesion, there really is a lot to enjoy. “No Weaknesses” strikes a great balance between garage rock noise and pop rock sensibility. “Violent Hands” is a pop punk song mixed with some piss and vinegar. And “Bruto Bloody Bruto” is an interesting surf rock/power pop hybrid. Really, every song on its own can fluctuate between enjoyable and awesome depending on mood and taste. But, truthfully enough, Higher Power is playlist fodder. It’s filled with songs that’ll be great if you stumble upon each one randomly. Played from beginning to end, however, Higher Power’s listening experience is more confusing than enjoyable.