For context: Dancey punks Liars, from whom Brooklyn’s No Things derive, predicted their own transformation into expat piss-stain skronks on the Magical EP. “Do something magical and disappear,” Angus Andrews whispered, and seconds later, he axed bassist Pat Noecker and drummer Ron Albertson and hit the backwoods of Jersey. While Liars went on to do something magical, Noecker and Albertson disappeared. Two Nebraskans by now used to yokel jabs, they were further cast as Liars’ former workhorses, good for a hot dub bassline or disco beat, but never an idea.
Weird then that Noecker and Albertson, along with ex-HiM Christian Dautresme on guitar and throat, pulled off the same sound Liars went for on 2004’s They Were Wrong So We Drowned without them: dark, primal, and tom-heavy neo–no wave. But No Things do it better: Albertson’s confident polyrhythms and samurai-size hi-hat swipes cut through the muck and monochrome of “Electric Chair,” while Dautresme’s violently banal, Lydon-obsessed lyrics are a step up.
Weirder: How No Things quickly succeeded with the same sound that got Liars so memorably panned by the big glossies. No Things started playing together in April 2004; within four months, London’s Blast First Petite label flew them out to record the half-sludge, half-Branca feedback “Coward”/”Trees” single. EMI threw down quid for the Trees LP, and helped the trio get gigs too, but almost overnight lost interest—shelved the album, and according to the band now holds the masters hostage for around $9,000. “No one can find the masters anyway,” demurs Noecker at Roebling Tea Room after a rehearsal. “Bullshit,” says Albertson. “They know where the fuck they are.”
If No Things seem gritty, grizzly, no fun, well, they sorta are. For the most part Brooklyn noise wallows in escapism—echo boxes un-pronouncing words we need to hear, pretty drones keeping everything but the moment at bay—which makes this band, along with Sightings and Mouthus, something of a realist act. Take “Just Say It,” a song as modern-day-paranoid as Jon Kessler’s recent P.S.1 surveillance installation: “We never knew each other/we only saw defeated shadows on a wall that I heard up in a book,” sings Dautresme, repping Plato pomo. He’s better on the chorus, when he’s not so on the nose: “I need your love!” Except he’s so beaten, so desperate, we actually believe him. “It’s this problem, where you’re waiting for someone to whisk you away and change your life,” he tells me. “It sucks, man. It’s lame.”