Red Scare (2011)
RIYL: Lawrence Arms, Hot Water Music, Social Distortion
San Francisco, CA’s Nothington immediately became one of my favorite bands after the 2007 release of All In, and my opinion of them has only grown since then. Hot on the heels of their mostly acoustic EP More Than Obvious, the former BYO signees are back with their second release for Red Scare Industries, a label that seems far better suited to Nothington’s style. And the change in labels must have really lit a fire under the guys, because as good as their previous material is, Borrowed Time is their best release by far.
This record doesn’t start with a whimper, but with the full on sonic assault of “Captive Audience,” drums pounding through the speaker with the excellent bassline and riff battling to drive the song forward. By the time co-vocalist Jay Northington’s voice kicked in, I was sold. He sounds gruff as ever, but also clear and emotional as he sings “Keep feeling, keep breathing, I wish someone had their arms around me.” Northington assumes lead vocal duties on the bulk of the album’s 11 tracks, standouts being the bouncy “Where I Can’t Be Found,” which has been on almost constant repeat for me since first listen, “Hopeless,” a whiskey-soaked ballad filled with Northington’s trademark melancholy lyrics, and “To Hold On,” a song with a chorus so catchy you’ll already be singing along by the second time it comes around.
Co-vocalist and co-guitarist Chris Matulich’s smoother voice gets to shine on the album as well, his strongest showing being on “The Escapist,” a tale of addiction and coping with passionately sung lines like “These conversations are fucking killing me, I’m an escapist and nothing comforts me.” As great as the frontmen sound on their individual songs, it’s when they come together that we get the best track on the album, “Far to Go.” Hearing Northington and Matulich sing together here, it’s impossible not to draw comparison to the best moments of Lawrence Arms’ Oh Calcutta and Hot Water Music’s Caution, where voices coalesce perfectly for first-rate chorus harmonies.
When it comes down to it, Borrowed Time is just consistently great and it can be played straight through repeatedly (believe me, I’ve done this) without wearing thin. It’s also important to mention how easily great records like this can be ruined by overly polished production, and Borrowed Time managed to avoid falling into that trap. As with their previous records, Nothington worked with Scott Llamas, who does an amazing job at making the band sound crisp and professional without losing that edge you hear in their live shows.
Red Scare Industries has taken bands like Menzingers, Cobra Skulls, and Teenage Bottlerocket and brought them to the forefront of everyone’s attention in the scene, and with an album as good and consistent as Borrowed Time, it looks like Nothington will achieve the same boost and hopefully finally receive the respect they deserve as one of the best punk bands out there today.