Famed alt-rock band The Nixons returned this year with its first new music in more than 20 years. The band’s new music came in May in the form of its new EP Sonic Boom, more than 20 years after it released its then fourth album The Latest Thing. The five-song record is a surprisingly strong return for the band, considering how much time has passed between the records’ releases. That is proven right from the EP’s outset in ‘Crutch.’ This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Favorite Lies,’ the EP’s lead single, is another example of what makes this new offering such an engaging new offering from the veteran rock band. ‘Letters,’ the record’s second song, is just one more example of why Sonic Boom is worth hearing. Together with ‘Ghost of an Angel’ and ‘Heaven is a Heartbreak,’ the record in whole of the record one more of this year’s top new EPs.
When The Nixons released its new EP Sonic Boom this year, more than 20 years had passed between its release and that of the band’s fourth album The Latest Thing. Considering how much time had passed between the records’ releases, it would be easy to assume that the band would have some rust to knock off so to speak. But listening through this 18-minute-plus presentation, the reality is the exact opposite. The EP presents the band as a group that has actually improved since the last time audiences heard from its members. This is proven right from the EP’s outset in ‘Crutch,’ the EP’s second single. The song’s musical arrangement takes the radio ready sound that made it so popular in its early days and basically lit a stick of dynamite, blowing it up and adding that much more energy to its presentation. It’s a sound that can easily be likened to works from the likes of Pearl Jam, The Exies, and Chainsaw Kittens. It is just a high-energy composition that ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment. When it is joined with the song’s equally assured lyrical theme, it becomes that much more engaging, as does the song in whole.
The lyrical theme featured in Crutch is presented as someone who is through being that person who has always been there for that person who refuses to take chances in life and instead relies on others to get things done for him/her. This is that person who mooches off of others and expects everything done for him/her. Who hasn’t dealt with this kind of person at one point or another in life? Front man Zac Maloy hints at that them in the lead verse, singing, “If you put one foot in front of the other/The chances rise that you’re gonna stumble/But if you just stand there/You ain’t going anywhere/Just wasting a heart beat/When you fall/I’ll let you fall/But I will be around to help you up/But you’ve gotta learn for yourself/I won’t be your crutch.” This is a direct statement that leaves little doubt as to what is being said. This is a firm lyrical kick in the backside to that person who would rather be lazy and let someone else do the hard work. The statement continues in the song’s second verse, which finds Maloy singing, “Go and string one scar into another/Trade a life that hums for a life that rumbles/Maybe we’re supposed to die/More than a thousand times/Maybe we’re meant to hurt/So we know/What love/Feels like/When you fall/I’ll let you fall/But I will be around to help you up/But you need to learn for yourself/I won’t be your crutch.” Once again, here listeners get a direct statement about just taking those risks and steps in life, no matter the outcome, because things happen for a reason. The two verses, collectively make the statement that we can’t let ourselves be afraid of what life might being, regardless of the potential outcome. This is a telling statement for the band, being the EP’s opener, especially considering this EP is the band’s first new music in more than 20 years. It makes sense that the band would use this song as an opener for the EP. It is a statement for the band while also serving as a statement to which plenty of listeners will relate. To that end, it leaves zero doubt as to why it is one of Sonic Boom’s most notable tracks. Of course it is just one of the EP’s most notable works. ‘Your Favorite Lies’ does just as much as ‘Crutch’ to show why Sonic Boom is worth hearing.
‘Your Favorite Lies’ presents listeners with a musical arrangement that is akin to works from some of the more well-known pop punk acts of the mid-late 90s and early 2000s. Between the vocal delivery style, guitar line and the rhythm section, audiences can quickly make a comparison to works from the likes of New Found Glory just to name one of those bands. The tone in the song’s arrangement helps to translate the message in the song’s lyrical theme, too. It is a slightly somber tone, but not say, an emo type of somber. It is more contemplative than anything.
The song’s lyrical theme, speaking of which, seems to come across as telling the story of someone who would rather hear lies than face reality. This is inferred in part through the song’s lead verse, in which Maloy sings, “Waking up to an invitation/Reunion of a generation/I was never in/Had no business/Faking my way through/Save a spot for my brand new savior/Cashing in on an unclaimed favor/He was holding out/Never see/saving it for you and me/Before I knew it all/Guess we had to fall/Before we’d know how to stand up/Put me in a room/Where the sun blooms/I now what I need to tell you/I’ll look you in the eyes/And tell all your favorite lies.” Maloy continues in the song’s second verse, “I don’t care what you want to call this/Chalk it up to a broken promise/You can cover it/With a rose/Shaded, jaded point of view/All sinners hang with holy rollers/Never know exactly what the soul is/But we’re playing it/Entertaining/The sky is always blue.” Looking back through all of this, maybe it is not addressing one person refusing to face reality, but perhaps how people in general don’t want to face reality. That is especially inferred in the line noting, “You can cover it/With a rose/Shaded, jaded point of view/All sinners hang with holy rollers.” It’s as if Maloy is commenting on how humans don’t want to accept that things are a certain way, that we’d rather gloss things over and see them in a certain light than see them as they are. This is just this critic’s own interpretation. It would seem to work though, especially noting again the contemplative tone in the song’s arrangement. That the song can create such thought pattern and discussion is in itself all the more reason that it stands out as one of the EP’s most notable works. Together with ‘Crutch,’ the two songs do plenty to show why Sonic Boom is a standout new offering from The Nixons. They are not the record’s only notable works, either. ‘Letters,’ the EP’s second song, does its own part to show what makes Sonic Boom worth hearing.
‘Letters’ is a star contrast to anything that The Nixons has offered audiences on any of its past records. This nearly five-minute composition bears a deeply brooding nature in its arrangement that opens with a full-on wall of sound approach before moving into a slightly more controlled brooding sound. The overall heavy musical nature of the arrangement, which trudges along slowly, works well with the song’s lyrical theme, which seems to present someone who is at a very low point in life.
The seeming emotional heaviness is evident throughout the song, beginning with its lead verse, in which Maloy sings, “Dear truth/Do you plan to show your face again/Dear truth/I would even take you…The cold/Empty space/That you left/Is swallowing us whole/Dear lies/How’s the view from where you’re sitting now/Dear lies/Who’s the next for taking down/Look us right/in our face/Who you killed and what you stole.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Dear love/If we even have a fighting chance/We need you now/Can you tell me when you’re coming back/There’s a new/Kind of fire/Burning in the same old…Dear hope/You taught us to believe in you/Dear hope/What the hell are we supposed to do/When fate/is the contract/or a joke/no one should ever tell.” To say that this is some heavy lyrical content is an understatement. This comes across, again, as someone who is in a very dark place in his or her mind and who just feels completely lost inside. This is something to which a wide range of listeners will relate. That ability to connect with so many listeners both musically and lyrically and in such unique fashion makes this song Sonic Boom’s most unique work and perhaps the strongest example of what makes the EP such an impressive return for The Nixons. Together with the other two songs noted here and the pair of songs not directly addressed, the EP in whole proves itself to be a work that while maybe not supersonic, is still powerful in its own right.
Sonic Boom is a strong return for The Nixons. It is a presentation that shows despite having not made any new music for more than 20 years, this band’s engines are still roaring. Yes, that awful pun was intended. That is proven through the EP’s musical arrangements and its lyrical themes, as addressed here. The songs noted here and those not directly addressed clearly support the noted statement. When considered with the EP’s other songs not mentioned here, the EP in whole proves itself deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new EPs. Sonic Boom is available now.
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