Listening to San Francisco band Nu Normol’s new EP, no love songs, is akin to having a cassette tape slipped through your mail slot. Peel away the Scotch tape and recycled wrapping paper and you’ll know: you’ve been visited by the spirit of DIY rock n’ roll, conveyed in a conveniently-sized rectangle complete with Wite-Out flowers and nail polish petals.
Album opener “don’t cry to me” is the stubborn little sibling to the EP’s title, the “I’m serious this time!” foot-stomp after everyone else rolls their eyes. It was only after repeated listens that I realized what it reminded me of — the Donna’s self-titled debut from 1997, where chanting choruses, gleeful cursing, and crackly, distorted vocals were part of the record’s lo-fi charm. All of that gum-chewing, eye-rolling attitude is still there on no love songs, but with a welcome heap of poeticism and lyrical sophistication that comes from having narrowly escaped adolescence. There’s a price to pay/don’t forget, the band reminds the song’s self-indulgent subject, flicking their crocodile tears right back at them like little glittering beads with each chorus.
The EP vacillates interestingly between tones; “warrior for hire” sounds like a 70’s war protest song with its soldier’s march riff, while “manhole” is the sort of song you find yourself muttering as you do chores around the house. The band sings it with a hypnotic, detached quality, the almost sole lyric — not gonna give you my love anymore — repeating itself into oblivion, like when you say a word so many times it loses meaning.
“don’t wanna go home” is a standout, the bratty beginning jumping into a cover of The Beach Boy’s “Sloop John B,” thoroughly enjoyable in this new iteration of woman-fronted grungy rock. And in a surprising heel-turn to folk, “little black hole” closes the EP on a sweet note, albeit with some cutting lines (is my sensitivity threatening?). As the only song written by EP recorder and mixer Alice Choe, it’s no surprise that it’s also the little black sheep, but Nu Normal’s willingness to jump from genre to genre shows a band looking to expand and experiment.
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