Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

USA Nails ratchet up the speed on Feel Worse

"Feel Worse"

Release date: 22 March 2024
USA Nails Feel Worse cover
21 March 2024, 09:00 Written by Greg Hyde

Since forming in 2013, USA Nails have steadily built up a reputation as one of London’s most reliably entertaining noise punk bands.

They have supported an enviable collection of internationally notable post-punk and noise rock acts, such as Mission of Burma, METZ, and Unsane, on their UK tours. As a band who, by their own admission, frequently prefer to play support rather than headline shows, it is impressive that USA Nails have built up such a dedicated fanbase over the years. Although their 2014 debut album, Sonic Moist, is possibly their strongest album to date, they have managed to evolve their sound across subsequent releases without jettisoning the aspects of their music that made it so attractive to begin with. Their 2020 fifth album, Character Stop, featured songs that were slower and more introspective than the short, up-tempo punk songs which had dominated their previous records. The band have ratcheted up the speed again for its follow-up, Feel Worse.

USA Nails say schadenfreude is an overarching theme of Feel Worse. Many of the songs address a mean-spirited desire to feel better about oneself through seeing others feel worse about themselves. This sort of zero-sum one-upmanship comes to the thematic fore on songs such as “Cathartic Entertainment,” “An Audience of Love,” and “On Computer Screen,” which deal with how reality TV exploits people, as well as the title track and “Pack of Dogs,” which address school bullying. This theme of interpersonal tension and conflict is reflected in Steven Hodson’s and Gareth Thomas’ guitar-playing, which sounds markedly more abrasive than it did on Character Stop.

At just under 27 minutes and with only three of its ten songs stretching beyond the three-minute mark, this is an album that is dominated by tightly composed, enjoyable punk songs, one that says what it wants to say before reaching a satisfying conclusion, leaving the listener wanting more. It is difficult to pick highlights as it all sounds so good, but “The Sun in the Sands,” “Pack of Dogs,” “Beautiful Eyes!,” and the furious title track particularly stand out. “Holiday Sea,” which is dominated by slow, droning synths, is the least good song. “I Love It When You Succeed,” which is replete with infectious riffing courtesy of Hodson and Thomas, makes for an excellent closing song.

Feel Worse is USA Nails’ best album for years. The songs’ brevity and fast pace are welcome developments, and the music reflects the album’s thematic concerns. The vocals are sometimes a little lower down in the mix than is ideal and the speed does occasionally relent on songs such as “Networking Opportunity” and “Holiday Sea,” but these are minor drawbacks. This is an overwhelmingly self-confident album filled with well-crafted, well-executed songs that sound like they should translate perfectly to the live environment in which many noise rock enthusiasts have discovered USA Nails. Fans of angry North American noise punk bands such as Pissed Jeans and METZ should love it.

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