Whatever you do, don’t call The Dirty Nil a punk band! To be a part of modern day punk can often mean to paradoxically fight conformity, yet adhere to a strict code of conduct that alienates anyone who disagrees. The Dirty Nil just want to hoist up their guitars, get drunk, and yell in your face for almost forty minutes. On the surface, they make the same amount of noise as their punk brethren, but their newest release Minimum R & B succeeds in showing that at their core, they are truly a bunch of swaggering, bratty, no-good rockers.
If you aren’t familiar with The Dirty Nil, they are kind of a big deal. They recently won the 2017 Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year, and statistically, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that they would polish up and go mainstream. On Minimum R & B, they pretty much go backward instead. The album isn’t even really a new release though. It’s a compilation that cherry picks from EPs Little Metal Baby Fist and SMITE, and features stand-alone singles as well as one never before heard track.
It may seem that The Dirty Nil are capitalizing on their newfound success, and really who could blame them? Getting rock heard these days is not a particularly easy endeavor! That said, Minimum R & B is a must-have purchase for new fans (like myself) and devoted followers who want to hear the new track “Caroline,” and have all their old favourites in one place. In essence, this is a record that is sure to please everybody.
Even though they are abrasive – attitude is valued over virtuosity – The Dirty Nil are right in saying that they really aren’t a punk band. If anything, what they do here reminds me of The Replacements debut album Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash, in that their style is more akin to sped-up, slightly more sloppy classic rock. They also seem to be channeling Pinkerton-era Weezer, in that there are big, quirky hooks under all the piercing feedback, and raspy yelling.
If there is any qualm I have about the record, it’s that the production value evolves so much throughout their first six years that there is a HUGE difference between something like opener “Fuckin’ Up Young” and closer “Caroline.” It doesn’t make for a particularly cohesive listen, but it is fun to hear how the band’s sound evolved throughout the years, all while sticking to similar lyrical themes. They were always brash, young, and defiant! Growing doesn’t have to break your heart after all!
As far as compilations go, this really should be treated as a real, complete album. It is haphazard, smacked together, and may cause whiplash, but what good rock music doesn’t? I’m actually still kind of amazed that these guys have had as much success as they have had! How did something so organically produced gain so much industry acceptance?! Higher Power might still be their best, and most popular album, but this is a way better introduction. Songs like “Fuckin’ Up Young,” “Guided By Vices,” and “Caroline” are an excellent indication of where these guys have been, are, and will continue to go. If you like raw, pretension free rock music, then pick this up now! Just don’t call it punk!
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Kate Erickson