Seldom does a band come around that exemplifies the true essence of lamentation like Pennsylvania's dreary pop-rock quartet Nothing. Beyond sheer talent and vision, Nothing has overcome a truly jagged past, the sort that many melodramatic try-hards posture toward but could never live up to.
Born from the unmistakably grim streets of Philadelphia, the group's origins are rooted in the notoriously harsh climate of its hometown's hardcore punk scene. The band's founder and principal songwriter, Dominique "Nicky" Palermo, formerly fronted the infamous Philadelphia hardcore outfit Horrorshow in the early 2000s. The band made a tremendous impact on the city's underground that resonates to this day. Horrorshow ended its brief existence due to Palermo's incarceration on assault charges, to which he claimed self-defense. The young musician wound up serving two years out of a seven-year sentence, and was released for good behavior. After many soul-searching years upon his release and a few Horrorshow reunion gigs, Nothing began as a pet project of Palermo's in 2011. The band released its full-length debut, Guilty of Everything, on Relapse Records. This was the first album with the fully realized roster as it remains today, featuring Brandon Setta on guitar and vocals, Nick Bassett on bass, and Kyle Kimball on percussion.
Praised for its dense dream pop overtones that calls to mind classics like My Bloody Valentine, Guilty of Everything presents itself with an au courant delivery and driving structure that harks back to the band's more aggressive roots. Nothing's first album cycle was marked with constant touring and extreme volumes, sometimes exceeding 120 decibels, to the torment of sound guys worldwide.
After a rigorous tour with Florida post-punk geniuses Merchandise — during which Palermo was jumped in Oakland, California, and severely beaten to the point of suffering brain damage and vertigo — the group found itself in the graces of Collect Records, a Brooklyn-based independent label, under the auspices of Geoff Rickley, better known as the lead vocalist of the band Thursday. Working with renowned producer Will Yip at Studio 4 in their home state of Pennsylvania, Nothing began crafting what would soon become one the most highly anticipated records of the year.
However, controversy struck in perhaps the most unlikely form imaginable in August 2015, when national news erupted around pharmaceutical tycoon, and newly dubbed "most hated man in America," Martin Shkreli, the man behind the 5,556-percent price hike for a much-needed AIDS drug. As the story spread and Shkreli's seemingly inhuman attitude towards the merciless price gouge became apparent, it took the media little time in connecting the ruthless former hedge-fund manager's money trail to financially backing Collect Records. Being no strangers to misfortune at this point, it took Nothing little to no time to publicly condemn Shkreli and terminate its agreement with Collect, regardless of Rickley severing ties with the loathed financier. The decision led them back to Relapse Records to complete their much-awaited sophomore LP, tellingly named Tired of Tomorrow.
Released on May 13, the latest effort from the quartet is a love letter to pure misery delivered with a drastically out-of-place sense of upbeat melody, wielding a drug-hazed truncheon to the brain. It's a fuzz-drenched pop-rock oddity that's seemingly at war with itself: bubblegum-caliber hooks dragging dread-laden lyrics behind them. This is all in line with what's come to be expected from Nothing since Guilty of Everything, yet the group has largely shed the fully reverb-saturated sound that previously stymied them as a shoegaze revival band to many critics.
The success is hard-fought and well earned, but in true Nothing fashion, the downright bad luck hasn't ended. The band experienced a tour van break-in in Chicago, during which almost all of Palermo's belongings were stolen, including the notebooks in which he penned the lyrics for Guilty of Everything and Tired of Tomorrow.
Nothing is scheduled to bum out Yucca Tap Room in Tempe on Friday, June 24.