By Kane Power (@ElHeavio)
Everything I read about USA Nails makes them seem like they don’t give a shit. Their press quotes and statements about their work are blasé to the point of self deprecation. Just take a look at their video ‘You Sing For Yourself’ and you would be forgiven for thinking they’re taking the piss. New record No Pleasure reflects this typically punk attitude with a modern lo-fi, raw sound, but digging a little deeper gives the impression USA Nails have more to offer, and care a lot more than they would have you believe.
There’s an intentional dissonance throughout No Pleasure that make the moments of harmony stand out. Stabs and slips of chord tensions occur regularly, creating rough, uncomfortable sections so that a resolving progression has a huge impact. The instrumentation is simple but well performed, the drums and bass in particular, and although they have presented a ‘live’ sound, the guitar tone has an amazing growl that has obviously been considered and refined.
No Pleasure can be quite rudimentary at times, but I think it’s the attitude and presentation of the songs that make USA Nails good, not their technical choices. The album gains momentum as it progresses, kind of like the band are warming up, and by the time stand out track ‘You Sing For Yourself’, with its killer bouncing riff rolls around, they are in full force. Further on, USA Nails treat us to the sublime ‘Make Me Art’, a Dead Kennedy’s/Nirvana amalgamation that proves they are capable of writing a good tune.
Vocalist Steven uses apathy and sarcasm to his advantage, giving the music an arrogance that’s endearing, lending a confidence to their basic presentation. His tone almost reassures you of your own idiocy; if you don’t get it then that’s exactly how they intended it. Just take the convulsive ‘They’d Name An Age’, an absurd mixture of character and straight-faced sincerity that leaves you wondering just what the fuck he is on about, and add song titles like ‘I Am Normal’, ‘I Am In A Van’ and ‘I Cannot Drink Enough’. I am Jack’s complete lack of imagination? I don’t think so. Although titles and delivery seem to reinforce their wasted youth projection, I get the feeling they are anything but.
It begs questions; is No Pleasure literal, metaphorical, or just commentary? Is there a kind of misdirection at work here? Maybe a reluctance to offer ideas as genuine, in favour of camouflaging sincere content with feigned irony? Am I reading waaaay too much into a punk record? Probably. But it’s good none the less.
No Pleasure is out today through Smalltown America.