NOTS, Cosmetic, Heavenly Recordings
Turmoil: a sense of unrest, disturbance, confusion. Two of these factors can apply to NOTS, though it’s safe to say that ‘confusion’ is certainly not one of them; there is no confusion here, just intent, attitude, and a shit-tonne of noise.
Memphis, Tennessee is not a place one normally associates with a bristling punk scene, but it proved the ideal place for the foursome to nurture their sound over the years, initially playing in multiple bands with NOTS themselves seeing members come and go via a near constant revolve of their door. Charlotte Watson, for example, shifted from the drums to wield bass only to find herself with sticks back in her hands once again shortly after, and – from an audience perspective, good! – for she certainly sounds at home there. The band could not claim to be the same were it not for her pummelling attack on their second album Cosmetic; it is, after all, the linchpin in their sound.
Coming two years after their debut We Are Nots, Cosmetic is an audible shift forward. Never fear, their music is just as raucous as before – but they have somehow managed to grab the coat tails of their flailing energy, dragging it back in and honing it in the process. The result of that control is razor sharp tracks like the urgent ‘New Structures’ or the wriggling 1 min 43, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it retort of “No Novelty”. The tenacity of Natalie Hoffman’s feral shrieks constantly taunt the listener into a rouse, though we are shown a different side to the vocalist on tracks such as the recently unveiled “Inherently Low”; it is the closest that NOTS get to an unabashed pop song and it is all the better for it. Here ferociousness is swapped for sneering chants in which all of the band are privy, whilst Hoffman displays obvious zeal in unleashing her jaunty guitar riff at the centre-point of the song.
It is clear that in NOTS every member has their opportunity to shine, though never at the compromising of a song. Meredith Lones certainly gets hers in the yummy bassline that holds up ‘Fluorescent Sunset’, a song that manages to be alternately simple and complex via the repetitive drum beat and the distorted clamour of guitar. And just when you fear that Alexandra Eastburn’s synth will disappear beneath the din, up it bubbles through the cracks to grapple for its moment to shine. In many ways, it is the synth that ices the cake when you least expect it, with Eastburn spewing psychedelic gurgles over the fuzzy hubbub. The first single from the album, ‘Entertain Me’ is beautifully abrasive, drums clatter whilst bristling vocals call out consumerism and those trying to force their ideas and opinions upon you (sorry, guys) whilst that synth slyly envelops before dragging you back down into its hiding place.
And that’s what is meant by ‘turmoil’, for like ‘Entertain Me’ – and NOTS themselves – Cosmetic is at once all over the place and coolly, disarmingly composed. There is no veneer here; all that affront merely dares you to dive a little deeper – and do dive by the way, for you will be duly rewarded.