Last time I saw USA Nails was back in February. Vocalist/guitarist Steve Hodson delivered the lines “It’s Friday night and everyone’s out having a good time and drinking, wwhhheeyyyy. Not me. I could be at home, in my bed.” They then launched into a song about being a man (or not). Proper haircuts/tunes.
Good lord. Eclipsing the light like some diabolical super-villain armed with a gigantic sun-blocker, USA Nails obviously felt their debut album (2014’s Sonic Moist) was too ‘light’ and ‘radiated rainbows’ and instead, should have spewed fountains of dark, gushing blood. If Sonic Moist had an anti-hero hostility (as voiced in my review of the album last year) then the follow-up, No Pleasure, goes full Joker on you. Actually, scrap that – because there’s no laughter here – it’s more The Scarecrow if anything.
The frothing abrasiveness of No Pleasure showcases just how far USA Nails have progressed in such a short space of time. Their punk rock melodies have mutated like Carpenter’s The Thing into an unrelenting bludgeon of ugliness. Where Oh Caroline offered a brilliant and brief, yet morbidly disturbing respite from 2014’s kraut-punk attack, No Pleasure (which was recorded live with minimal takes) is all about creating a thoroughly demented, chaotic and cathartic listening experience. Take the opening track, I Am Normal – a rumbling cataclysm of hoarse, vocal barks under the churning disgruntled guitar mangle and lead-block rhythmic pounding. It spews snarling, surly derision through every crunching chord and bitter, spiteful scream. A fantastically brutal and turbulent start.
Through a trail of feedback it morphs into the abrasive caterwaul of Palm Them Off With Me (originally titled Workplace Assessment on their live album) – a brief, 1 minute and 39 seconds snarl of guttural, noise-punk, showcasing the shrill, strangulated whine of Steven Hodson and Gareth Thomas’s wailing guitars. This makes way nicely for the hollow-chant/emotionless drum beat of You’re A Stain – which mocks, belittles and taunts you at every turn. “There you go with your lipstick on and your hairspray on your face, it seals in a layer of vile, disgust and distaste…” drools Hodson through a broken transistor of a microphone, sneering and insisting that “You’re a stain…” and he’s fucking right, you are. This is USA Nails at their most careless; stripped back to a barely concious, lethargic stagger of splattered grunge-mess.
Their punk rock melodies have mutated like Carpenter’s The Thing into an unrelenting bludgeon of ugliness..
“You twist…for me….I’m not your first…” snarls Hodson over the building crescendo of Pissed Jeans-guitar rage on You Sing Only For Yourself. Notes are left to be interpreted how you want as things progress towards a chopping, hacking conclusion of tangled, wrenched six-string shredding and furious, wild abandonment. The sinister element floods forth on the shy of six minutes kraut-rock burn that is They’d Name An Age. “If I was a material I would be straw. I would burn with ease and bring villages down to their knees” states Hodson, his near-robotic matter-of-fact speech pattern sounds eerily acceptable, until he corrects himself with “but wait…I would be iron, strong and reliable…THEY’D NAME AN AGE AFTER ME! THEY’D NAME AN AGE AFTER ME….THEY’D NAME AN AAAAGGGGEEEEE……” as the full realisation of his mania reaches his brain. It’s a chilling, scathing mantra as USA Nails list various materials they’d rather be in the hope of some timeless recognition over their dark and demented swirl of crackling noise and desolation.
Laugh It Up is just over 2 minutes of frenzied garage punk rock – credit to Matt Reid’s rapid-fire drum patterns, which are an exhausting, turbulent attack. This is raw, impassioned and utterly, utterly chaotic from start to finish, showcasing the rapid and furious intensity USA Nails can reach. Juxtaspositioned with the off-kilter and oddball theatrics of Automated Cyst – which has vocalist Hodson mumble hollow, coded messages of “telephone answers….” through a crackling, distorted microphone, as bassist Daniel Hollloway’s weaves the creaking, acidic tone of his instrument through a maze of gurgled, fractured chords. Holiday is perhaps the only track that shares any similarities to anything on Sonic Moist – the crazy, zealous cry of “I’M GOING ON HOLIDAY!” is weirdly infectious as the fuzzed-out, bass-heavy pound of splintered, punk rock rushes to reach the blood-splattered finish line. During the turbulent pummel of final track I Cannot Drink Enough, all structure is abandoned as guitars flail and melt beneath Reid’s powerhouse kit-demolishing performance, whilst vocalist Hodson laments about his intake of liquid in a mismatch of slurred vocal ramblings and eerie, spoken-word monologue that distorts and twists through the song’s garbled and technical racket.
In just under a year, USA Nails have released a follow-up that is even more twisted, demented, caustic and alienating than their debut. There’s a tattered, festering gloat to No Pleasure that constantly oozes with foul, sardonic agitation and deep macabre loathing. Utterly, utterly essential for all these morbid, gut-spewing reasons – an exceptional, vital and disturbing record.
You can pre-order No Pleasure now from Independent Music. Go on. Treat yourself.