ALBUM REVIEW: The Dirty Nil – ‘Free Rein To Passions’

Artwork for The Dirty Nil’s ‘Free Rein To Passions’ - three flower people dancing around a tree that turns into a mushroom cloud at the top

“What a beautiful goddamn ride it’s been!,” hollers The Dirty Nil’s Luke Bentham on the title track of Free Rein To Passions, in what might be the most succinct encapsulation of his band’s progress to date. The Dirty Nil have become one of those bands that it’s so easy to love and get excited by, through the simple fact of having an unavoidable spark within alternative music’s current wave. A blend of classic punk spirit with ‘90s alt-rock attitude has been their bread and butter, across a series of albums that have always strived to capture the exuberance of both sides. Even on 2021’s Fuck Art—an album ultimately hamstrung by its New Year’s Day release date and the pandemic era’s void consuming most pop-culture memorability—the case of a band simply thrilled to be this far into the ride beamed out regardless.

That’s where the greatest strengths of The Dirty Nil lie, and an ability to surge ahead on the back of pure adrenaline is most key on Free Rein To Passions. Slightly awkward title aside, it’s a joyously simplistic listen, tapping into what’s always been great about The Dirty Nil and, in typical fashion, running for miles with it. Bells and whistles are at a minimum, as is any kind of gimmickry or overegging of the production pot. No, as soon as Celebration hits with a big, chugging metal riff and a ‘90s-era Weezer knack for power-pop jewellery, that’s this band’s bread and butter on full display, and running at full capacity.

What stands out most of all is how deeply simplicity is leveraged here. Unlike, say, The Menzingers who operate in similar alt-punk circles with a more introspective, literary bent, The Dirty Nil have no such onus placed on that. This is all about the joy about the journey in its purest form, release and positivity in a nuclear capacity. It stacks up the hooks of Nicer Guy and Land Of Clover by a good few stories each, and finds solace in how exuberant some good old-fashioned youthful hedonism can be on Blowin’ Up Things In The Woods. Stupid Jobs, meanwhile, has the colours of ‘90s alt-nation plastered all over it, with Bentham disgruntled by an unfulfilling workaday lifestyle, and would much rather pursue his rock ‘n’ roll dreams instead.

And you know what? You couldn’t want that more for the guy, not just because he’s so good at bringing out the core tenets of relatable, explosive punk songwriting, but because the rockstar life is the clear calling for him and The Dirty Nil. As far as pure musical might goes, Free Rein To Passions might just be their best album yet, where everything feels honed and sharpened but never overworked. There’s still the sensation of three buds knocking these songs out in their garage all across this thing, from how easily it all comes out, to a rawness unburdened by the need to sound ‘current’ or ‘trendy’. This is music from the gut and the soul, built on full-fat riffs and a love of the craft that’s impossible to dim.

In other words, fairly standard stuff from The Dirty Nil, but now operating at its most powerful and efficient levels. There’s just an added dollop of life to Free Rein To Passions that lets it connect that much more fiercely, to where there’s barely a weak link in the bunch. Celebration speaks for itself as a titanic opener, but in the first leg alone, The Dirty Nil dip into riffed-up power-pop on Nicer Guy and Undefeated; grunge on Atomize Me; and colossal, all-purpose alt-rock on Land Of Clover, all of which sound mighty fine indeed. They rarely deviate from how great that sounds either, particularly in a mix that’s heavy and loud without being smothering. New bassist Sam Tomlinson especially gets a good opportunity to stretch his legs, like with 1990 and how he acts as the thumping engine to the album’s most straightforwardly punk song. And with the distinct lack of glossy finish and raggedy edges left deliberately untouched, Free Rein To Passions hits every mark for a great, organic, uncompromised rock album with little room for deniability.

It probably is The Dirty Nil’s best in all honesty, not only a comprehensive display of how deeply their abilities run, but also the most consistently great version of them. For a band who started off excellent and have seldom wavered since, Free Rein To Passions is a notably big step up that they’ve taken, or at least one where the results speak to how far this band have come in the years since their debut. That’s no small feat, by any means, but it really does hit the spot, and cements just how wonderful The Dirty Nil can be at the absolute top of their game. In a year like this where the highlights have been plentiful but few have managed to properly eke out that next level, it’s not hard at all to see Free Rein To Passions becoming the latest inductee to that club.

For fans of: PUP, The Menzingers, Single Mothers

‘Free Rein To Passions’ by The Dirty Nil is released on 26th May on Dine Alone Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

Leave a Reply