The Dirty Nil – ‘Master Volume’ (Album Review)
In 2018, humility has increasingly become a core value embraced and emphasised by guitar-based bands. Cool, calm, and collected confidence reigns supreme over arrogance and obnoxiousness, while mature self-assurance gets prioritised over forceful attempts to prove one’s worth. The Dirty Nil refuse to conform to that particular trend – and while nonconformity is obviously one of rock and roll’s most fundamental values, and they’re far from the first set of rockers to talk themselves up, these guys have put themselves in a position where only the most sublime, flawlessly perfect music, the kind that makes you spontaneously trip balls and see the face of God, can live up to the hyper-inflated expectations that are a natural consequence of promoting yourself in a pointedly egotistical way.
To be fair, The Dirty Nil have earned the right to believe in themselves. They come endorsed by The Who, have put in the on-road work and played 350 shows in three years (so basically one every three days on average), won a Juno Award, and made it to the front page of Reddit. Then there’s 2016’s debut album Higher Power, a damn sick collection of tracks that incorporated more or less every major rock-related genre and inspired critics and newfound fans to gush effusively.
Musically, The Dirty Nil have internalized a wide range of styles – but as online debates confirm, they’re so obvious that the urge to indulge in musical trainspotting overpowers the drive to actually listen to the songs and take them in. Self-conscious historical cherry-picking barely conceals the fact that The Dirty Nil haven’t yet managed to put their own idiosyncratic stamp on the music world. They’ve become masterful chameleons, capable of transporting you through a dizzying array of instantly recognisable vibes without really revealing irreplaceable personalities through their work.
Fortunately, there’s more depth to frontman Luke Bentham’s lyrics – especially on I Don’t Want That Phone Call, a song about attempting to pull an addiction-ensnared companion back from the brink of self-destruction. Vocally, it’s crystal-clear and direct, a serious standout performance punctuated with searing screams. Stylistic considerations and note-by-note analysis are pushed to the back burner in the face of pure passion and catharsis.
It’s rock and roll done right – and despite their faults, The Dirty Nil are obviously on to something. Master Volume may satisfy the world’s die-hard rockers, but this band have the potential to transcend their current limits and break away from the pack with a peerless masterpiece. The Dirty Nil know their history, and if the past has taught us anything, it’s that rock’s all-time legends continue to be remembered and revered because they were completely inimitable – not because they were good at imitating other people’s innovations.
LTK RATING: 7/10
Pre-order Master Volume (out September 14) on iTunes.
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