Just when you thought that concept albums were a thing of the past, out comes In The United States of Russia by local rockers Nothing Sounds Good (NSG). With heavy political messaging written months ago (but still very relevant), this three-piece gang puts a lot of party into just a handful of tunes. There is a lot of angst and conflict within American politics today and NSG is one of the few local bands (the only band?) not afraid to sing about it.
The opening song, “Doomsday,” is straight up, in your face American rock and roll. Actually, every song on this EP is. It’s strong both musically and lyrically. “Two leaders they collide/They have bombs on each side/What will happen to the world we know/When the buttons are pushed and the bombs explode.” It’s like Michael Moore and Dee Snyder had a baby and it was born with a Les Paul already in its hands.
“Crimea River” starts with a radio talk show audio clip about Anthony Weiner (ala GNR’s “Civil War”). It does a good job of calling attention to the “annexation” of Crimea by the Russian government, resulting in trade sanctions by most of the world’s major economic powers and screwing the residents in the process. (Sorry, back to the song itself.) Aside from the title’s creative play on words, “Crimea River” has a catchy beat and fat guitar solo. Vocalist Samuel Stevens makes good use of a phone filtered mic and guitarist Chris Passenitti delivers a melodic, extended solo. It would be cool to be able to decipher the background audio clips.
“Mandy” is NSG’s idea of a love song, and by “love” I mean the debilitating pain of having your heart crushed. The chorus wails “But now you’re gone/And I’m by myself/And this life/Has become a living hell”. It’s straightforward and sincere, kind of like the band itself. The riff is heavy and dirty with bassist Matt Woomer serving as the rhythmic glue throughout. It’s a song that’ll stick with you hours later and might serve as a salve if you’re down in the dumps romantically.
“Jon D’oh” is another tune with toe-tapping rhythm and karaoke-worthy lyrics. The guitar tracks were written by NSG ex-bandmate, Steven Sawall, but the current band lineup thought it was so good so they included it anyway. Vocalist Samuel Stevens resurrects a little Alice In Chains “Man in a Box” drawl, a slight departure from the rest of the EP. Drummer Iggy Ortega leads the mid-song transition to a drum-laden bridge soaked in anger: “So did you get what you’re after/Found at the bottom of everything/Nothing that I see is laughter/Scared rabbit look on your face tells me there’s trouble”. It does a good job of grabbing the listener’s attention.
“Burning Bridges” has a solid chorus and sweet bends by guitarist Chris Pasinetti. It’s a creeper of a song with a great beat and stanky guitar solo (which is way too short by the way). More mixing magic (guitar layering, smooth backup singing, more phone call vocal filters, etc.) classifies this one as radio-friendly.
“Somewhere Else” wraps up the EP and is actually an unlisted bonus track recorded with student Misael Lopez. It’s a driving-worthy number that would make Judas Priest proud. From the stanza-ending floor tom smashes to the multi-layered guitar distortion, this song does a good job of wrapping up the EP. It might be a little odd to hear the band thanking a crowd on the recording itself, but when they perform it at a show it works.
This EP is not subtle by any means but that’s probably by design. You could take the lyrics seriously or (after a few drinks) simply comedic commentary on today’s political chaos. Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a rock solid set of songs that you could loop at a house party and not tire of it well into the night. Most of the songs have 3 or 4 guitar tracks that are more felt than heard. Overall, this is NSG’s best work and an accurate representation of Seattle’s rock scene. You can find out more about the band on Facebook and order the EP on iTunes. If you’re looking to time-travel back to when heavy metal ruled everything, it’ll be money well spent.