Guilty of Everything
I'm giving up. I'm guilty of everything.
Nothing. How can you define it? What is that feeling of nothingness and emptiness that is inside of all of us? You know what I’m talking about; that feeling when you press your head to your pillow at night, contemplating everything you know, and coming to the conclusion that, deep down, all of it really means nothing. As Jean Paul Sartre once said, “Man… is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be. There is no human nature, since there is no God to conceive it. Not only is man what he conceives himself to be, but he is also only what he wills himself to be after this thrust toward existence.”
Ultimately, this idea is a choking glance into objective reality and to some it may come across dramatically, ridden with guilt and gloom. Although this isn’t the way Philadelphia’s uprising punk-gaze act Nothing sees it. With their new record Guilty of Everything, they gracefully express what nothing really feels like while peeling back the boundaries that have confined traditional shoegazing bands for years.
Nothing came to my attention a year or two ago after the release of their EP Downward Years to Come on A389 Records, a hardcore punk label based out of Baltimore, Maryland. They immediately grabbed my attention with their heavy and dreamy sound that was reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins and Slowdive although they were very enigmatic and I knew very little about them at the time; I just kept spinning that EP over and over again.
When they announced a follow-up full-length LP and released the first track “Dig” last year, I was beyond ecstatic. I literally dropped everything I was doing, loaded the track on my phone, and plugged it in to a friend’s speakers to hear what they had come up with. To say the least, it blew me away and left me thirsting for more but it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that my desire was finally quenched when I received their new record on my desk.
Guilty of Everything reveals that Nothing have greatly expanded on their sound since then, adding in the hardcore-punk influenced rhythm section of Kyle Kimball and Nick Bassett of Whirr, a defining aspect on the record, while conveying something more immediate and forthright that traditional shoegazers have missed out on; their lyrical content, which speaks of damaged formative years, lost love, being an outsider, and a desire to escape everything that ails us. The lyrics are undoubtedly a product of Domenic Palermo’s experiences over the past ten years, which involved him getting arrested for a stabbing in 2002, heavy substance abuse, and numerous other tragedies along the way. His time in jail changed him and left him feeling like an outsider in the presence of others, a feeling that is inescapable and difficult to cope with as an adult. Nevertheless, music became his escape and Guilty of Everything is highly confessional.
The record begins with Hymn to the Pillory, an epic introduction to the band’s debut that is filled with crushing, reverby guitar riffs and crescendoing drums that hint at the epicness that is about to ensue. Next, they plow into the tracks “Dig” and “Bent Nail”, which contain such aggressive-sounding rhythms that I cannot listen to them without imagining myself stage-diving into a crowd of angsty shoegaze fans. After the decaying noise of “Bent Nail” fades away, they trade in their high tempo for blissful, dreamy soundscapes on the tracks Endlessly and Somersault that will leave die-hard “true gaze” fans lusting for more. They transition back into the punkier side of things for the song “Get Well”, which explodes into a romantic and triumphant soundscape that lays the foundations for the crushing walls of sound that are unleashed during “Beat Around the Bush” and “B&E” (Breaking and Entering).
The whole record is a gaze into the void of existence, and Nothing purges into it headfirst, introspectively reflecting upon their lives and the tragedies of the past, shedding new light on the afflictions that ail us all and waving a white flag that confesses a need to finally let go by saying “I’m giving up. I’m guilty of everything.”