NOMEANSNO – Wrong (Alternative Tentacles)
In 2011 Nomeansno drummer and founder John Write was speaking to Jeff Nielson, they were conducting an interview for The Big Takeover and he made an unbelievable statement. “People talk about us as being a ‘musician’s band’,’ jazz-core’, ‘prog punk’ or whatever but we never think of ourselves that way. Yeah, we challenge ourselves musically and we write things that we can’t play without practicing and yes after thirty years of playing with each other you just get tight. But if you look over all of our music you’ll find a lot of it is very, very simple” Well I have to tell you something chap. You named your 1989 album appropriately, you are Wrong. Wrong is as complex an album that you will hear to come out of the late 80’s. Jazz-core or prog punk are perfect descriptions for what is layed out before you as you put the needle onto the vinyl.
In 1994 a friend of mine bought the Nomeansno album Why Do They Call Me Mr Happy? I sort of liked it but I remember being more impressed that it was on the Alternative Tentacles record label, home of Dead Kennedys, Neurosis and Lard, so I didn’t follow the group with too much interest until a decade or so later when I bought a Nomeanso LP lot on eBay which consisted of …Mr Happy, The Worldhood Of The World and Wrong. I’ll be damned if I can find these now. They have completely disappeared from my collection, the thief must be out there right now, still laughing at their fantastic haul and boasting of the heist he or she pulled off. Probably.
For now my digital copies will have to do. Wrong is seen today as the definitive Nomeansno album but the band disagree, they think they have recorded better since but being on the right label at the right time on the cusp of a worldwide musical movement has meant that just because it’s their most famous record people reckon it’s their best. This rings true; The Melvins have had that stigma hanging around Houdini ever since its release in 1993. They too have recorded arguably superior material although it’s the one most remember them for. I can’t really pass judgment myself as I am still missing a few of the bands later albums but from what I own I would have to say that Wrong is in fact the groups greatest achievement.
The album begins with It’s Catching up which is played at such a frantic pace you are not sure at first as to what just happened. This happens with Brainless Wonder as well, it’s like the first time I heard Dillinger Escape Plan, they cram so much into a song that by the time its finished you need to listen again just to see if it’s technically possible to play that way in the first place. What this band is capable of is beyond what Zappa did by fusing jazz and rock, these guys fuse jazz with punk. It’s quite something to behold. Unlike The Worldhood Of The World album this record doesn’t suffer from same song syndrome, each track is defined in its own right. There a hooks, choruses, slow numbers and in the shape of Rags And Bones the LP even includes an anthem of legendary proportions. Not only that but it includes my favourite lyric too in “I am married to a cigarette butt lying in the gutter”, well, dontr we all feel that way sometimes?
Repeated listens quell the feeling that there is too much going on and then what remains is a somewhat classic album in a field of one. Nobody else sounds quite like them today and back in 1989 they really were an oddity. Still, they were popular enough for someone to steal the LP’s off me, and that is a pretty solid recommendation in itself.