Since the birth of punk, numerous fledgling bands have learnt their craft through the release of limited edition 7” and EPs. In this, the internet age, platforms such as bandcamp have made it fundamentally easier and more economically viable for bands and smaller labels to release these offerings and gradually build a following before launching into the critical and commercial minefield that is releasing your debut album. This is exactly the path followed by Canadian rockers, The Dirty Nil. Their phenomenal debut album Higher Power was the culmination of everything they had learnt from five years of recording and, for many, it was their first introduction to a band who are quickly forging a reputation as one of the most exciting rock bands around. Thankfully, Dine Alone and Fat Wreck Chords have joined together to offer a fascinating insight into the creative growth of the band by releasing this compilation of all of their 7”s and EPs to date. Now those who have had their appetite whetted by Higher Power can take a trip through their history to find a band who, from the very beginning, have been making nose-bleed inducing, scuffed up, perfect slacker anthems.
Debut single “Fucking Up Young” saw the band come out swinging with a thrillingly raw and infectious single that has to rank as one of the best debut singles of the modern era. The bare bones production and the rough and ready scuzzy guitars are refreshingly gritty and authentic, coming across like an old, dusty artifact of the band’s origins. It perfectly captures that moment in time where the band threw themselves into what (for all they knew) could have been their only shot at cutting a single. The band hadn’t had to time to overthink things, just plug in and play. It helps that their sound had already been honed through years of touring as the take sounds live with stop-start, wigged out guitars and short sharp bursts of percussion. The B-side from the single “Verona Lung” is a similarly spiky, unpolished gem of an alt-rock song which combines the deceptive simplicity of Pixies and the vulnerable howl of Rivers Cuomo.
Next up comes “Little Metal Baby Fist” and “Hate is a Stone” from their “Little Baby Fist” EP – “Little Baby Fist” blends together equal parts Husker Du, The Replacements and Fugazi to leave an uncompromising, explosive punk song with a hook you could hang a T-Rex from. Their 2014 7”, “Cinnamon” b/w “Guided By Vices”, their first for Fat Wreck Chords, has a grungier feel but is anything but derivative, coming across like a lost Nirvana cover of the Vaselines from their Incesticide album. “Guided by Vices” in particular has a riff that could instantly oxygenate your blood as the band coil a classic rock n roll riff into an incendiary ball of noise.
“Nicotine”, “Beat”, “New Flesh” and “Pale Blue” all come from 2014’s “Smite” EP. “Nicotine” distorts a standard blues shuffle while“Beat” kicks in the door, taking the classic punk sound of The Damned and views it through the prism of 80’s DC Hardcore. “New Flesh” shows a more hardcore side to the band with the band kneeling at the altar of hardcore legends Minor Threat. Bassist Ross Miller takes over vocal duties to scream himself inside out as the band pummel through a full throttle slab of abrasive, caustic hardcore. Closer “Caroline” is a mid-tempo waltz which sees the band combine their sound with classic 60s melodies. It builds to a swirling whirl of biting guitars with singer Luke Bentham howling and lamenting through the din.
This compilation acts as the perfect introduction for those taken in by their hook-laden, riff-heavy, fiery debut and are thirsty for more. It’s an exhilarating flick through their discography to date and after repeated listening it doesn’t feel so much a compilation as an early greatest hits record.