Band: USA Nails
Album: Shame Spiral
Label: Bigoût Records / Hominid Sounds
Release date: 16 June
Sounds like: A kitchen full of rats. R2 D2 flipping you off. A vinyl cassette covered in piss.
Immersing themselves almost completely in a different spectrum of reality, USA Nails (the family fun time band from London – as they like to call themselves) seem content to continue morphing into a magic eye picture of warped insanity. The Swami-guitar lines of their debut have all been erased; washed in a sea of sludge. All that exists is the ear-bleeding battering of the scything guitars from their follow up, 2015’s No Pleasure, with elements of the howling and guttural amp-melting yowl of Whores if they started covering METZ songs.
Interestingly, Stuck For Inspiration and Oven Degreaser, Lisa do not feature on Shame Spiral – instead, we’re treated to 10 completely new tracks; most of which I heard during their tour with Future of the Left in December last year.
Shame Spiral’s biggest strength is the way it wrong foots at every turn. As the marching, bristling chords of What’s The Price? ring out, already things are different. “I’d sell my second kidney, to make ends meet…” purrs vocalist Steven Hodson; his tone detached and morose, matching the seething noise caterwaul of post-punk nuance that slowly creeps up on you, as rusty chords meld with the crunching drums and vocals overlap, devouring each other, over and over. It’s almost a relief when the wail of gnashing feedback kicks in and the 68 second blast of Interchangeable Sister rockets past, driven by drummer Matt Reid’s superhuman skills as he drowns out everything, save for Hodson’s vocal slurs and the stalking and snapping riffs. The industrial battering of the scene-mocking Does Format Matter? follows with rabid, foaming hate, imploring you to “REWIND YOUR VINYL CASSETTE!” with venomous, cackling fury. It’s a brutally dense and pounding crunch of bruising, almost Snapcase-esque hardcore in it’s relentless and screeching delivery. Credit to the guitars, which wildly flail, screech and shriek like a squirrel fighting a bird to the death inside a maze.
“I have come to the realisation that my body is laughing at me” monotones Hodson on the depressingly caustic I Give In, a song which lists everything wrong with the subjects slowly decaying body (noting flatulence, blood from the mouth) as the rest of the band address the situation through a crushing wave of sludge-rock disgust and screams of “I GIVE IN! I GIVE IN!” as all hope and the need to cling on to existence begins to depart. Whether it’s deeply personal or just USA Nails taking the piss as usual; this is one of their most macabre and abnormal tracks committed to vinyl cassette and it drips with rust-coloured spite. I even think you can hear the guitars peeling apart at one point; a headstock snapping under the sheer weight and scorching, consuming despondence.
The kraut-rock screech of Play It Again Johnny speeds past with head-spinning delight and is a surly, sneer at anyone trying to be louder or more obnoxious – the sinister vocals, whispering the words “I will reveal you….I will reveal you…” are less than comforting; they’re a blatant sinister threat, which fits the nature of Shame Spiral perfectly.
Whilst the song titles might not be as oddly humorous as those on No Pleasure, it’s the lyrics that USA Nails have utterly excelled themselves on this time around: “I could do with a lick of paint, I could do with a lick of a wrecking ball…” intones Hodson on the tense and chewy noise-punk of University Home, a song which seems to lament the horrors of three years away working up loads of debt and is summed up with the brilliant throwaway line: “there’s half a rat in the kitchen drawer.” There’s a very METZ-quality to this, again – mostly to the drumming from Reid, which fills the track with ugly, gnarled and disjointed rhythm and skull-rattling levels of pain. We never had rats when I was at Uni, only hamsters and they were fucking pointless.
Closing track Eisbaer, leaves a lot of open questions – Hodson’s vocals sound as if he’s drowning underwater, whilst the rest of the band sound like they’re dragging a particularly heavy body out of a lake to relocate its final resting place. This is the moment where USA Nails step outside of their noise-rock roots and embrace a ghostly, shoegaze-esque tone as the final minute of the track, seems to be a call-and-response battle between the scratching guitar chords and the blister-inducing, plod of the drums.
If there was any errors on Shame Spiral, they’ve been smeared in layers of howling, toxic feedback. Similar to No Pleasure, it was recorded live – with every note, every eerie guitar twang, intake of breath and belch preserved on record. This is post-punk thrown off the building to splatter on the streets in a gaudy, bloody mess – it eradicates any notion of ‘wave’; any notion of genre beneath monstrous guitars and anvil vs anvil drumming. USA Nails truly leave you feeling suitably uncomfortable and they’re okay with that, because there’s always that feeling that the music is never for you.
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