So, the ’90s were cool, eh? They ushered in arguably one of the greatest evolutionary periods in modern rock history, the grunge era, booting out the big ugly hair bands. Not that we’ll ever get sick of drunken hicks bellowing out their personal, tone-deaf version of “Come Sail Away” in some seedy karaoke bar after one too many Bud Lights, but still, the music that was echoed in during the early ’90s and beyond was electric. Never had noise been so in chic, and so deftly crafted. And thanks to the uprising of compact discs, you were all but guaranteed that an album from one of these alternative bands would deliver a fantastic paradox of distortion and clarity, and that the band’s conscious lack of production shone in bright, digital sound. No offense to vinyl and just about every British band from the ’60s, but this was about as pure of a musical experience as there was.
Flash forward a decade and a half; music is as readily available as running water to most people, with slick production and the almighty single ruling the roost. These days it’s hard to find a sound as earnest and passionate as that of the grunge era. Which is one of the many reasons that Love of Diagrams’ latest album will easily go down as one of the best of the year.
You can’t fake organic, and Nowhere Forever has it in spades. This calls to mind old memories of smoke-filled rooms and record parties with friends; the way you craved an album and couldn’t take it out of your Walkman for months at a time. This is guitars-blazin’, drums-explodin’ ferocity, and when Antonia Sellbach shouts “Consider it over!” again and again on “Forever”, it’s not hard to recall the likes of Sonic Youth or the Pixies and the way they made you feel… so rebellious and so empowered.
But this is more than just blood and guts; it’s raw yet melodic, leaving many listeners with the difficult decision of whether to listen again to what they’ve just heard or move forward. Six-minute plus tracks like “Mountain” or “A Part of You” reiterate the minimal depths the Aussie trio is capable of, both exhibiting gnawing vocal and guitar repetition with enough playfulness in the middle to keep things fresh, a Les Savy Fav with more heart or Sleater-Kinney with more control.
The sort of revival that old school ’70s blues-rock has seen with the likes of Black Mountain or The Soundtrack of Our Lives has worked because of the great affinity and respect for the music by the artists. It’s neither pastiche nor takeoff, but a brand new look at an already colossal form of music. And while it may be a bit too early for a slew of bands to jump into a neo-grunge phase, it wouldn’t be unwelcome either provided they played like Love of Diagrams. This is brash and imperious and massively addicting rock ‘n roll.