Originally published in Delusions of Adequacy
Fugazi’s In On The Kill Taker or Repeater or Steady Diet of Nothing weren’t just records. They were heavenly bodies that boasted their own gravitational pulls. Countless lesser planets and bits of interstellar debris were tugged into the orbit, echoing the refrains, mimicking the stances and trying to figure out that bizarre mix of astronomy and alchemy that made it all click right into place.
So, enter Nonagon, the latest trio taken in and transfixed by such documents. The group hails from none other than Chicago — fertile terrain for some other planetary legends, it should be noted — but their hearts and their heads seems to be in Fugazi’s Washington, D.C. Distorted guitars swirl and stagger, seeking a neck to slash. The rhythm section, all light-footed drums and bouncing bass, pops holes in your speakers. The group is fronted by a screaming man who thinks nothing of barking the record’s title as a crazed refrain: “No sun! No sun!”
The astronomical analogy, if you will, also is appropriate (beautiful cover art and hand-assembled packaging aside) because this trio’s too-short debut EP hurtles by with the speed of a passing asteroid. Six songs, 15 minutes, no time for messing around. Tracks like the incredible instrumental “Peterson,” whose beats per minute are clicked and clacked out with thrashing percussion, deliver the band’s message with a velocity bordering on the frenetic. Or really, really good surf rock.
Elsewhere, the group flashes moments of inspiration where dynamism trumps speed. For that argument, look no further than the album-opening “The Brushback,” where guitar chops – the appropriate phrase for jagged rhythms that seem to stab at listeners’ ears more than strum around them – give way to drum-and-bass breakdowns or crescendos of noise accompanied by shouting. Or breathe in the opening 13 seconds of “Fake Baby Lucius,” where a fluid bit of electric guitar-work is accented with the occasional punch of a snare and a cymbal. (The punching approach comes back later, to exceptional effect, as do some backing vocals that seem more SoCal than D.C.) Or wonder at “N.E. Friend,” at 3:10 the record’s unlikely epic, where the trio gets creative with a 4/4 march and then unleashes vicious off-tempo choruses and bridges that, well, were just itching to be unleashed in the first place.
“N.E. Friend,” which closes the proceedings, actually may one of the record’s best tracks, a piece where the group tries to expand on the full-frontal attack on display throughout the EP. The song begins in mid-explosion, already burst and blown-out at the seams, before crashing into a Fugazi-ish verse of angry guitars and barked refrains. Then, back to the angry thrashing, this time accented with softer backing vocals. The song – and the record – end a minute and change later not with more explosions but a quieter response, a kind of musical reconciliation over (comparably) muted guitars and toned-down rhythms.
Debuts are typically imperfect affairs and No Sun, for all its strengths, is probably no exception. Those hungering for variations on a theme might find the record to be a little redundant and some critics may be turned off by the scant running time. But this a band playing from the heart for people seeking the same and, with No Sun, they’ve started on what will hopefully be a long career of their own path across the skies.