Setting the stage for a memorable introduction, Philadelphia’s own, Big Nothing, showcase some great punk and driving melodic rock on their debut LP, Chris. With three band members (Pat Graham, Liz Parsons, and Matt Quinn) sharing vocal duties, they are plenty of bright spots to be found on this collection of songs that fit together snugly over 11 tracks that clock in just over 30 minutes. Drummer Chris Jordan (formerly of Young Livers) rounds out this band that has no shortage of musical experience or talent. The themes of emptiness, the search for meaning, and desire to be accepted are apparent even as each band member brings their unique songwriting approach to Chris. Right down to the album artwork depicting a lonely restaurant with very few patrons, it’s apparent that Big Nothing is unafraid to embrace the uncertainty of starting anew and building from the ground up.
Kicking off the set with “Waste My Time,” Parsons gets the first stab at lead vocal duties when she sings, “If I don’t know why I’m looking, then what can I hope to find out?” It helps set the tone for the album by embracing both the unknown as well as look forward cautiously optimistic at starting over. The overall style of Big Nothing is in the same vein as the working-man punk rock bands such as The Gaslight Anthem, Social Distortion, and The Bouncing Souls. The beauty of a debut album is figuring out what type of group you want to be, and the audience should be able to ride out that wave with the artist if they like it enough.
“Calm Me Down” follows the great opener with a 90’s Alt Rock-styled song structure, all building up to some great sing-a-long choruses and cool instrumental breakdowns between the verses. The recording sounds as if the band may have recorded a lot of these parts live, as the vocals on this particular song sound slightly drowned out by the powerful guitars. “Always Prepared” finds a different vocalist take the reins, and his emotive vocal style fits the band perfectly. Chris Jordan has some memorable drum fills and pulsating beats as he helps drive the track home.
“Carried Away” is more of a mid-tempo track that allows Big Nothing to paint a different picture of longing for a perfect relationship. As we all know, no relationships are perfect, and the lyrical themes of working towards a better future with the people we care most about are done strategically well. Other songs such as “Quiet One” showcase a band experimenting with a variety of tempos in their songs, but the commonality of all these songs are how professional they sound as a unit. Every band member is essential, much like the parts of a car working together to carry us from Point A to Point B.
Their debut single, “Real Name” is sandwiched in the middle of the record, and reminded me of some early Against Me! It’s a great choice of a song by the label to introduce the band with, as it summarizes most of what the band is capable of creating. The singer laments here that, “No one ever calls me by my real name,” but doesn’t let it drag him down too much to help get his points across in the lyrics.
Overall, I was impressed by Big Nothing’s band chemistry, considering how each of the band members came from different projects. Big Nothing were destined to be playing music together, and I hope they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.