Nomeansno, perhaps the finest of all Canada's musical exports, have been active since 1979 and have been one of those rare and special acts that have improved in a gradual upward arc with every release. Leading lights of the '80s post-punk/noise rock scene along with the likes of their former label boss Jello Biafra, Steve Albini and, a little later on, Therapy?; like them they specialised in a particularly intricate and hyperkinetic brand of punk rock with an added ghoulish, nightmarish edge to them which allowed their songs to penetrate far more deeply into the consciousness than any of the more straitlaced "smash the state" rantings normally associated with punk as a genre.
Their comeback release of sorts, this is a jarring u-turn away from NMN's sombre and film noir-ish 2000 album 'One' and returns to their earlier style: a uniquely bombastic tribalism propelling lyrical tales at once sardonic and existential, and sometimes unfathomable. The two centrepiece tunes here, 'I See A Mansion In The Sky' and 'Heaven Is The Dust Beneath My Shoes' - what in hell are they talking about? Something about, maybe, the point of life being simply to live? Something about the inevitability of death? Whatever - here are two songs you can honestly and genuinely say have never been written before!
Some of the other stuff is equally alluring. The opening 'Wake Up' (which leads off with a rocket blast, the drum rhythms almost reaching grindcore-like frenzies) seems to be noting that the whole "live life to the fullest" spiel is usually wrongly interpreted by people as meaning, wallow in gluttonous excess and consumerism. 'Mr In-Between' suggests that, to an evil person, his/her conscience is the most evil thing conceivable. The thrashing, writhing, terror-struck 'I'm Dreaming And I Can't Wake Up' leaves things ambiguous as to whether the protagonist is having a nightmare that a family member has been murdered or else having a nightmare as part of the aftermath of a family member's actual murder.
Two definite highlights are 'Mondo Nihilissimo 2000' and 'Slugs Are Burning', which pair deliciously catchy tunes (the former surf-rock, the latter electric folk-rock, both played at turbo-speed velocities) with frankly terrifying Armageddon lyrics that gleefully wallow in the prospect of the world going to hell.
In many ways it's sad that a trio of grey-haired fiftysomethings (as Nomeansno nowadays are) are capable of rocking ten times harder and twenty times better than the supposedly cutting-edge younger generation, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't treasure albums like this. It will absolutely blow your bloody doors off.