What is your initial thought upon hearing the words ‘Fuck Art’? This is a simple, yet seemingly polarizing take that would spawn casual debates about the value of the very thing we’re passionate about. That being said, there is a more serious depth to uncover from this phrase. We can all agree that the art of music and music listening can be quite a pressure, overwhelming in the worst of cases. The advent of the digital age has further increased these incessant demands to the point that we are passing by, submerged in water that barely stops at our necks. Cue the anxieties, cue self-esteem issues, cue the animosities and toxicity resulting from all these stressors. How should we react to all of this, then?
‘Fuck everything’ sounds admittedly appropriate, right? Fuck this, fuck everyone and their bullshit; it is not worth giving it all and getting nothing in return.
Canadian rock trio The Dirty Nil manage to lower these tensions by condensing their third full-length record into, and portraying life itself as, a collection and recollection of ordinary happenstances, along with an overarching perspective that considers past decisions as mere processes, as opposed to being mistakes or deviations from what is expected. Fuck Art is a record that vouches for self-acceptance, regardless of the choices made.
Frontman Luke Bentham comments on the album title in an interview with New Noise Magazine: ‘On first glance it seems rather nihilistic and empty, but to me it’s the exact opposite. It’s a very jubilant and optimistic title. Through our lens, through our band’s brand of humor, it’s got a smirk. It’s got a certain sense of celebration to it’. This translates perfectly to the vibe and listening experience of this record. It is this jovial c’est la vie attitude that makes Fuck Art so exhilarating, empowering even. Coupled with alternative and punk rock jams that become earworms within seconds, The Dirty Nil bring comfort and energy to a day brimmed with stormy clouds and emotional entanglements. Anecdotal in its approach, the record showcases personal and external moments painted in brushstrokes that blend the whimsical and the mundane.
On the opener “Doom Boy”, the band pay tribute to the thrash and the heavy, with a slap-in-the-face riff, lyrics that reminisce the naivety of love, and the character eager to show his loved one some Cro-Mags and Slayer in the back of his mom’s Dodge Caravan. It is a strong opener packed with such nostalgia and enthusiasm that it makes you feel at ease and smile. Conversely, the rock’n’roll anthem “Elvis ‘77” is a commentary to what is perceived as the last moments before renowned figure Elvis Presley’s, uh, curious death. It is an event that certainly shocked the world at its time, but the track displays this fact so nonchalantly that it is strangely hilarious. The refrain ‘Why didn’t you call your momma more?’ does not fail to make me chuckle like an idiot the more I think about it.
Despite its carelessness at face value, Fuck Art is an all-around smart record. The songwriting alone speaks volumes, surrounding you with wall of sounds that will make it hard for you to stay still. You know those harmless stereotypes your preppy high school friends would make characters of after you mention to them that you’re into rock and metal? Sure, it is inevitable to wince when reflecting upon it, but the record ironically captures that imagery so well, somehow. Again, it is this carelessness and innocence pulsating from each track that engages you enough to study these otherwise awkward situations and say, ‘Huh, those were fun times’.
Likewise, there are moments on Fuck Art that contrast these instances of exploding joy. Take “Hang Yer Moon” for example, a slow-burner of a track that musically personifies a hangover, tip-toeing between raw heaviness and introspection, and culminating with an outro that is borderline angelical in its flow. Or the all-too relatable “Hello Jealousy”, where the band explore the ‘grass is greener on the other side‘ mentality present in the music industry, and come to terms with it.
Honestly, I have not listened to a record as fun as Fuck Art for quite some time now. It is lively, cathartic, and strangely reassuring. In a way, The Dirty Nil pay an ode to resilience, making sure you’re able to see a silver lining amidst the whirling chaos that is life. Track after track, you’re engrossed in the dumb shit humanity endures sometimes, while at the same time giving you space to frolic in your own memories with fondness and a dash of cringe. There’s no doubt that this record is a strong contender to be one of the best releases of this first quarter of 2021. Give it a chance. Give it a try. Take a bit of time to ease your stresses with this record, and trust me when I say that you will feel replenished after. Because, after all, what good does it do you when you give too many fucks?