In late October, Pitchfork senior editor Jeremy D. Larson unleashed a scathing and hilarious review of Greta Van Fleet’s Anthem of the Peaceful Army. The band had gained popularity as a result of them sounding, well, a lot like Led Zeppelin. Larson pulled approximately zero punches, saying the group “sound like they did weed exactly once, called the cops, and tried to record a Led Zeppelin album before they arrested themselves” and called them “stiff, hackneyed, overly precious retro-fetishism.”
The article jump-started a conversation around the merit of those who would exhume the corpse of classic rock, steal the clothes off its back and assume its identity. The conclusion was resounding: Don’t do it. It sucks.
Lucky for The Dirty Nil, they don’t have that problem.
“Like anyone else, we watched videos of music from the '60s on YouTube. That’s just how we absorbed music when we were kids, so naturally it has an impact on the way we sound as a band,” says Luke Bentham, frontman and guitarist for The Dirty Nil. “But I don’t think we’ve ever been charged publicly as being a The Darkness or a Greta Van Fleet. The problem with those bands is they rehash one sound or band. We steal from way more people. We’re bigger and better thieves than those bands ever were. That’s how we’ve managed to escape those charges ourselves.”
Fundamentally, a fixation on the past leaves one stuck in place, jogging endlessly forward but moving nowhere. Bentham goes so far as to lament the way classic rock is mythologized, as if suspended in time.
“One of the most silly things about rock 'n' roll is the constant reverence for the past," Bentham says. "Don’t get me wrong, the past is awesome, and there is some amazing rock 'n' roll that has happened, but if you keep your eyes in the rearview mirror, you’ll never be able to see what’s ahead of you. It’s clear that people still like electric guitar music. It’s on them to find something new to listen to.”
The Dirty Nil have proved themselves to be ardent defenders of new rock music.
“I know for a fact that there are bands working today that are making some of the best rock music of all time. Our friends from back home, PUP, come to mind.” he muses.
However, they wouldn’t be true rock stars without some semblance of ego.
“Our album Master Volume is the greatest rock 'n' roll album of all time,” Bentham deadpans.
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This isn’t to say the group lacks self-awareness. The band spends the majority of the record waxing poetic on the ever-popular reckless lifestyle that consumes those around them. A number of the songs such as “Always High” and “I Don’t Want That Phone Call’ engage critically with the fact that so many of those around them haven’t managed to grow up, often finding themselves responsible for their far-too-old-for-this friends.
“It’s hard to distill my thoughts exactly on alcohol and drug consumption, but it feels like a lot of people we know haven’t managed to catch up with their own age," Bentham says. "We’re definitely older now and in our late 20s and that’s just not what it’s about for us anymore. You certainly don’t need to live that way for your music to be energetic and frenetic, anyways. We have way more life experience now than we did on the last record. It’s certainly a message that comes from experience.”
The Dirty Nil plays tonight at Three Links. Tickets are $10.