A steady sense of unease has permeated into our lives over the last several years as we negotiate the insurmountable inequality and travesty we witness daily in real life and online. Wealth disparity, renovictions, an opioid crisis, among a seemingly never-ending series of unfortunate circumstances feeding into each other and causing a vicious cycle of despair and desperation. Things have only accentuated over the last year as a worldwide pandemic has added to the trials that the majority of people are struggling to overcome.
The lack of solutions to these problems is unendingly frustrating and leaves us in a perpetual state of disillusionment. When there are no concrete answers, where do you turn? Art has always been a mirror reflecting on society and its woes and with their debut full length album, NON FICTION, NOV3L turns that mirror into a magnifying glass. The Vancouver based post punk band trade in the pastiche of the past, think Head On The Door era The Cure mixed with the centralized bass groove of A Certain Ratio but their focus is clearly on the here and now. In both regards, they do things exceedingly well. Laser sharp observations about the ailing of our world all wrapped in a jet black shroud of angular guitars, danceable drums and mournful synths. NON FICTION is an eye opening treatise and tristesse that is the perfect, momentary antidote to watching the world crumble around us.
“UNTOUCHABLE” sets the tone immediately. While the sharp guitars play off each other and skitter through the groove, it’s the bass that makes the most striking impression. Throughout NON FICTION the bass doesn’t only lay down the groove but upends it, twists it on its head and never makes you stop dancing. Musically the band is firing on all cylinders. It feels so fully realized and then the saxophone kicks in and it perfectly compliments everything and paints their canvas with the right amount of colour needed. Vocalist Jon Varney commands your attention for the duration of the record. Most of the time, Varney doesn’t even need to raise his voice for you to be fully captivated by what he is saying. On “PUSHERS” Varney recounts his own experiences working in the Downtown Eastside as the band explodes around him. The result is pulse pounding and will leave you breathless. Producer and mixer Bryce Cloghesy does an amazing job keeping the proceedings together. When things seem like they are about to implode, the band and Cloghesy push it to the very edge before pulling it all back again. This is also a comment on NOV3L’s songwriting. The band has a masterful way of exploring the tension in every note and it is extremely affecting.
Over the 11 tracks that make up NON FICTION, NOV3L explores what is going wrong in the world without trying to offer platitudes. It’s not the feel good record of the year but that is the point. We anesthetize ourselves enough and while that may be a healthy form of self care instead of constantly staring into the abyss, it doesn’t need to be a consistent one. NON FICTION isn’t a call to arms, it’s a reminder that there is so much to work on and, possibly, a plea to create the intention to realize this and start taking the steps to end the disparity and start to heal.
Order Non-Fiction by NOV3L HERE
Looking for something new to listen to?
Sign up to our all-new newsletter for top-notch reviews, news, videos and playlists.