Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: Cosmetic by Nots

I think Memphis four-piece Nots were being deliberately ironic when they named their second album Cosmetic. Their music - delivered with ragged aggression and tousled by raw, lo-fi recording techniques - is pointedly not interested in cosmetic concerns. Rather, it's just here to beat you about the ears with pummelled drums and a harsh, hard cocktail of guitar, bass, and burbling synth noises.

Fancy sampling what that sounds like? Here's Rat King, Cosmetic's exhilarating second track. It's less than two minutes long, but I think you'll agree that it packs a strong wallop:

The artwork on the cover of Cosmetic tells an interesting story. At first glance, it's kind of dull: just a picture of a sink in what appears to be a public restroom. But I've been looking at it for a while now, and I've noticed a few things that I'd like to comment on now: first of all, that marbled cream countertop starts to look oddly beautiful after a while, as if the photo is telling us to listen for the buried hooks and subtle nuances in the music it advertises. Cosmetic is a brutal, uncompromising listen at first, but there is a lot of interesting stuff going on here, and songs like Rat King and Cold Line are positively catchy once you listen beyond the noise and the fuzzy production.

The other interesting thing about this album's cover art is the way the photographer seems to be actively avoiding looking at the mirror. This strikes me as being reflective (no pun intended) of the LP's general aversion to sonic gloss and polish: Cosmetic is not an album that spent hours doing its makeup, but its this approach that gives the release its personality and its almost intimidating appeal.

Cosmetic is out now on Heavenly Recordings.

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