Home Read Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: NoMeansNo | 0+2=1

Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: NoMeansNo | 0+2=1

The West Coast punk troublemakers go big and do the math on their fifth full-length.

“A bold plan drawn up by assholes to screw morons! News at 11.”

My gawd I love this record. This one from 1991 and Wrong from 1989 are basically a tandem set for me. I have no idea what happened to my copy of Wrong, so I’m going to review the less-lauded 0+2=1.

When I saw NoMeansNo perform at Barrymore’s in Ottawa in 1998, they didn’t perform any songs from this record but I loved the show anyway. They were touring their new double album Dance Of The Headless Bourgeoisie, which justifiably dominated the setlist. I Can’t Stop Talking is kind of my personal anthem.

For me, the standout thing from the show was their ages. Especially co-founding lead vocalist and bass player Rob Wright, who would have been 44 years old at the time. I was 25 and feeling like the window had closed on me making my own music. This show changed put those feelings to bed for good. I still felt the same way when I finally did put out my first album in 2016 at age 43. I’m on track to release my eighth on my 50th birthday in April.

0+2=1 opens with a perfect banger — Now. It’s also one of the best show-openers ever recorded. It’s catchy, cool, smart as hell and just gets wilder and wilder. NoMeansNo always have great, unpretentious lyrics — they sometimes get a little too quippy — but not on this.

Both then-guitarist Andy Kerr and Wright handle the vocals — Kerr doing the intro. Everybody puts in a great performance on this track. Wright and younger brother John are a powerful rhythm section. Their first album, 1982’s Mama, as well as the one which followed 0+2=1 — 1993’s Why Do They Call Me Mr. Happy? — were done as a two-piece, a la Death From Above 1979.

The Fall follows as the second track. It reminds me of Devo, not just because it is angular prog-punk but the dynamic between Kerr and Rob’s vocals is quite strong. They know the tonal difference between the two, and write with that in mind — like Beastie Boys did. This is a classic NoMeansNo song, pure and simple. I like Now better, but this is top shelf.

Next is the epic title track — all nearly six minutes of it. It foreshadows the dominant and prevailing style of Dance Of The Headless Bourgeoisie. It’s not for everyone, but I love it. “Count on your fingers, it’s the rule of the thumb that 0+2=1.” The Valley Of The Blind is much more mainstream, while still not at all commercial. Great gang vocals on this, with an attempt at a singalong chorus. Funny though, you could put this vocal performance over a ska song and I’d hate it.

Side 1 ends with Mary, which sounds almost contemporary at first if your bag is Rage Against The Machine. I suppose it’s also funny that I can’t stand Rage. But, I love this. Perhaps it’s more believable to me because of the vintage of the musicians, their obvious well-read cleverness and the sinking sense that the funky flourishes are meant to be ironic. This is real-deal hardcore by people who are smarter than you.

Side 2 starts with my other favourite from this record, and the song I quoted at the very top of this column. Everyday I Start To Ooze is funny and cathartic. Mostly lyrically, but also musically. I can’t imagine trying to play that bassline and singing those lyrics with such incredible delivery. You gotta see it:

“My girlfriend has been missing for two weeks
I guess that’s what happens when you walk the streets
With a bag on your head and a sign that says:
Every day, every day, every day I start to ooze.”
It’s quippy, for sure, but it’s so damn good.

Next is When Putting It All In Order Ain’t Enough. This one has elements of Eric Gaffney, Sebadoh, Shellac and Thrak-era King Crimson — with lead vocals from Kerr. Sometimes I think the difference between rock ’n’ roll and hardcore might just be percussion. This would be a totally different song with a bit of maraca.

The Night Nothing Became Everything follows this, a short ripper — basically a deluxe instrumental segue. I Think You Know comes bouncing and stomping in on a fade, mirroring the way the previous one faded out. This one is angry. More great gang vocals, likely done at the very same time. It’s followed by one I like much better, Ghosts, the progression of which — and you’re gonna laugh — reminds me of Morse Moose And The Grey Goose by Wings. It’s an epic one again, a little dirgey but I like it a lot.

Joyful Reunion wraps up the album — a treal triumphant and thunderous banger. It has loads more appeal than the previous one. Again, you’re going to think I’m an idiot, but I hear elements of Gord Downie in this one.

One common complaint about this record is that it’s too long. I’d say that’s fair. 47 minutes. If they cut Ghosts, that would bring it down to just under 40 minutes, which would be perfect.

There are only seven pressings of this record on vinyl — the most recent being in 2007. So you may not have an easy time tracking down a copy. But I’m a little pressed for time and facts.


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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.