Out & About

About 80 years after the Wright brothers figured out how to use their flying machine, another pair of Wright brothers (Rob and John) figured out how to use theirs, when they formed Nomeansno. And Nomeansno's 14 albums for Alternative Tentacles (beginning with its 1985 debut, Sex Mad) are definitely like their own personal plane trip, one with plenty of turbulence, climbing then dropping, six cocktails then no drink service, the flight attendants dropping the breathing masks just for fun. The band brings together so many seemingly discordant elements in its music that they have called it, somewhat sardonically, "high tech-jazz-funk-art punk-minimalist-high volume-goof rock." Of course, when a European interviewer asked them about that quote, John Wright replied that, "Oh we've junked that. It's now one block from rock."

Nomeansno injects that kind of wry sense of humor into its albums, keeping them grounded (barely) on earth. It's a band that can name a paean to cocaine psychosis "A Little Too High" and let loose with a minimalist cover of Miles Davis' "Bitch's Brew" on the same album (last year's No One), while also doing a cover of the Ramones' "Beat On The Brat" at half speed, rendering it like a 45 played at 33 rpm. Speaking of the Ramones, they are clearly a huge influence on Nomeansno, so much so that the kooky Canadians formed a very Ramones-y side band called Hanson Brothers, which sings solely about hockey, beer, and girls--in that order.

Besides for the Ramones, the group has always cited the usually inexplicable band The Residents as huge influences, which accounts for much of the just total and random weirdness that highlighted earlier Nomeansno albums. That influence is, more than likely, what makes Nomeanso a viable band 20 years after its founding, and a band that people usually learn of through word of mouth, especially via their legendary live shows. The effect of experiencing live the staggering jazz rhythms played at hardcore speed and volume while allowing for extending rock jams, short punk bursts, and calm interludes is enough to leave you tired, sweaty, and with your jaw hanging agape.

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Yuval Weber