The Dirty Nil – ‘Master Volume’ review

The Hamilton, Ontario band trio’s second studio album is a love letter to good old-fashioned rock’n’roll

‘Master Volume’ is the third release from The Dirty Nil is as many years (last year’s ‘Minimum R&B’ was a ragged odds’n’sods compilation), which tells us that the Hamilton, Ontario band don’t overthink their creativity – this is gutsy rock’n’roll for people who know what they like. The music is as simple as it is old-fashioned: buzzy major chord riffs accompany anguished lyrics from frontman Luke Bentham, who’s blessed with a distinctive, hoarse voice laced with sardonicism.

The band is often described as punk, though the screech of feedback that opens ‘Pain Of Infinity’ is classic rock fanfare, matching high production values and the catchy vocal line: “Let’s do whatever you want / Whatever you want.” Despite this, Bentham’s delivery sounds closer to early noughties pop-punk – not least on the percussion breakdown in ‘Smoking Is Magic’, as he sneers through a compelling Billie Joe Armstrong impression. Although this is not a record notable for inventiveness, the frontman has a knack for shifting between spoken word and raw holler, best displayed when he snarls, “You said you’d straighten out / AFTER YOUR DUI” on ‘I Don’t Want That Phone Call’, a warning to a wayward friend.

The Dirty Nil are clearly in love with their rock’n’roll lineage, and their enthusiasm is infectious. This is, primarily, experiential music, meant to be enjoyed communally at their ear-splitting live shows. On ‘Bathed In Light’, Bentham quips, “Hello Jesus / Hello Elvis / It’s good to see yers, as if accepting the band’s immortal status. They’ve a way to go before that becomes reality, but ‘Master Volume’ proves – without a doubt – that they mean it, man.

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