The Dirty Nil may or may not play punk– it’s the slugline of a pedantic argument that obfuscates the fact that punk fans of any ilk will probably like them either way. Calling your band punk, in a world where pure rock ‘n roll and garage rock are inimitably more marketable is a faux pas of colossal variety. The Dirty Nil might not have the same set of influences, and they may not care to be a part of the community, but from whatever roads they took to get there, they ended up in the same place. Their music is punctuated with loud and heavy guitars, vocals shouted at the edge of hoarseness, with enough melody to stick in your head after the two-and-a-half-minutes are up. Whatever they want to call themselves, their music is punk rock by the books.
They’ve released an EP on Fat, and now are making their full-length debut with Higher Power, a title that combined with the band’s overt rock worship, can be taken as a sort reverential testament to the place of powerful, raucous music in one’s life. It’s laid out in the first track “No Weaknesses” both musically and lyrically. Thick chords give way to hints of twang, all fronted by plaintive yell-singing that calls back, in the absolute best way, to the 70’s hey-day of punk rock, where bands from all over the world thrashed chords and attacked the mic with whatever they had in their voice box.
Grunge rears its head on the second track, “Zombie Eyed.” It’s mid-tempo and heavy, like Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr., paired with a whimsical riff that makes the whole thing feel self aware. That’s a line thatHigher Power skips across, over, and under through its duration– the question of authenticity and earnestness painted in a blue cloud as vivid as its album art. At times, the music seems to be a treatise on commenting and incorporating as much of rock music history into a single conclusive sound as possible. “Lowlives” and “Fugue State” cover hardcore in this respect, and does so with respectful vigor. For a band that doesn’t want to sully their name with punk, they play it with remarkable reverence.
There’s nothing wrong with the way the Dirty Nil choose to market themselves. They play powerful rock music and for most anyone who cares for such a thing over scene politics, that’ll be more than enough. Higher Power is an album held together by the notion that music can be a universal unifier– the end result being a curated mixtape of sonic aggression.