There’s no escaping it, Atlanta’s Blis. owe a lot to Nirvana. From the baby/aquatic imagery on the album cover to the crunchy modern day grunge of their super strong debut album No One Loves You, released via Sargent House. Further expanding the wide range of sounds that label brings to us, this album is possibly an unlikely companion in the back catalogue of heavier acts. Having said that, there are occasions on this album where the guitars pack an incredible hefty thump and the swings between lighter moments and darker hues often take you by surprise. The (excellent) press release that comes with the album puts this more eloquently than I can manage by informing “it’s an album of a band that’s lived a lot of life, exploring sonic realms that on the surface, should not go together, but manage to find cohesion.”
It’s been a busy few years for the quartet of vocalist Aaron Gossett, drummer Jimi Ingman, bassist Luke Jones and guitarist Josiah Smith. While recording this album, they also spent two months touring the U.S with label mates And So I Watch You From Afar. Gossett also became a Father with his long-time girlfriend, who happens to come from Christian stock. This background forms a lot of the lyrical content of the album, once again ably described in the presser as “a record of complex musicianship and even more complicated emotional development”. I should mention that this weighty element also happens to coincide with some pretty catchy tunes and rather splendid guitar work.
As I mentioned from the outset, probably/possibly to the band’s annoyance, the blueprint for most of these songs is the shift in sonic dynamic between the quiet and the loud, much loved by the dearly departed Kurt Cobain. It was the instantly satisfying opening to lead single ‘Stale Smoke’ that appealed to me and drew me into the world of Blis. The lo-fi intro of hushed guitars and Gossett’s barely there vocals followed up with choppy licks and start/stop swerving fuzzed guitars hailing primetime Pixies. Yes, we’ve heard this before but it’s nice to be reminded of an era so loved by so many given a nice modern sheen. Opening track ‘Dumb’ (perhaps the Nirvana comparison won’t be so annoying) is a very melodic and inviting introduction to the album. There’s so much frailty in Gossett’s voice and the delicate guitars switch up into a menacing growl while a backdrop of soaring voices/keys(?) add an extra dimension.
With the song format firmly established, ‘Take me Home’ is a winning combination of great melody and crunching guitars. Gossett’s voice flipping between petulant howl and keening falsetto with consummate ease, one of the band’s unique draw-ins. They manage to recreate a stripped back Slowdive on ‘Servant’, an interlude of swooning guitars and ethereal voices. When the falsetto “oo-oohs”, stomping distorted guitars and two note melody of ‘Old Man’ grinds you can’t help but think of ‘Where is my Mind?’, it’s an album highlight and the droning guitar solo at the end oozes out of the speakers adding a blissful hit of melody.
Gossett’s vocals border on the edge completely in ‘Lost Boy’. The fuzz tone of the guitars now at gutter level such is the depth of thick sludge distortion. Then in an instant we’re back into delicate flicks, a neat dynamic that works so well. The twitchy groove of title track ‘No One Loves You’ is embellished with a hefty bassline and little guitar harmonic mutterings. I’m reminded of Norma Jean when Gossett gets reckless on ‘Ugly’, his voice shredded to bits over an intense sonic fury conjured up by Smith.
I don’t mean to be detrimental but the wandering bass and little guitar flicks on ‘Home’ borrow heavily from the Nirvana ideology. However, the song has enough class and identity to be enjoyed immensely. It’s difficult to keep the quality high throughout an album, or rather, there will be songs that will appeal more to some than others. Save for a wondrous solo, ‘Christian Girls’ meanders along a tad aimlessly for me, the dynamics a worrying stretch with neither peak nor valley. Can’t say I found much replay value in the next track ‘Pathetic’ either. But after these little inflections, closer ‘Broken’ gets us back on track with a bumpy bassline and likeable groove before veering into a joyous and uplifting chorus where the fuzzy tones of Smith’s (excellent) guitars make a final last hurrah. The song does tend to outstay its welcome at the last though with muddy riffs that lack the killer hook of the chorus.
All in all, this is a tremendous debut album from a band that can only keep realising new sonic territories and I believe they are on a label that will let them do just that. The song writing is strong, the playing throughout is at times intricate and yet also basic and simplistic when it needs to be. Whilst the nod to forefathers of a genre that has long since passed is very much to the forefront of the Blis. sound, the band bring a delicious modern sheen and I’m sure they will forge ahead with more of their own identity. For now, No One Loves You is a very fine debut to entice us all back for more.