For some reason, the weight of expectation doesn’t seem to be afflicting Doom Loop all that much. Perhaps it should, given how Dream Nails’ self-titled album in 2020 was the kind of shot in the arm imperative for indie-punk at practically all times. But that also precludes the notion that Dream Nails are courting a rockstar lifestyle reliant on hype to keep them afloat, which has never felt like the case. The ferocity in their outspokenness of the socio-political climate has always been their driving force, in a way that eclipses any notion of ‘playing the game’. So maybe it’s a good thing that Doom Loop arrives fairly unencumbered, if only keep Dream Nails’ focus firmly set on their usual form of power.
There’s also the slight notion that Doom Loop isn’t quite as good as its predecessor, though that’s hardly a yoke on Dream Nails’ shoulders. If anything, it represents a fearlessness in expansion—both sonically and lyrically—in which what they ‘should’ be doing is met with complete disregard. Your garden-variety indie-punk band isn’t bending into liberal moments of post-punk or hip-hop or airy, piano-heavy pop; for Dream Nails, meanwhile, you almost wouldn’t expect anything less. It’s simply the impression they give off, such is the reliance on an uncensored, unfettered independence that still pushes them head and shoulders above most of the field.
And here’s the crucial part of that—for some of the snappiness that may be diminished in spots, Doom Loop is always raring to redirect that energy elsewhere, to where it’s difficult to see any ‘steps down’. Prioritising the rhythm section really does help, with Mimi Jasson’s bass and Lucy Katz’s drums emphasised within these more skeletal compositions. The feel of post-punk comes about remarkably easy, as Dream Nails pick up a nerviness and wiriness through very sparse means, particularly at taut-to-the-point-of-snapping moments like Good Guy or Geraniums. What’s more, it helps a curveball like Sometimes I Get Lonely, Yeah from feeling like too wild a swerve, in which Ishmael Kirby’s rapping isn’t too far removed from what you might find elsewhere, but the zeroed-in groove is totally in line. It’s a very brisk listen too, in the punk spirit that’s always been a factor of Dream Nails that’s been perfectly retained. Sure, Time Ain’t No Healer is a bit of a droopy note to end things on, but, like…that’s it. Everywhere else, there’s not even a hint of bloat to sniff out, nor the sense that core purpose is being deviated from. As far as indie-punk goes, Doom Loop is about as lean and intransigent as it gets.
As it stands then, Dream Nails’ high standing within their scene is in no danger of being challenged just yet. They’re simply too unwilling to yield for that to be the case, which is only a good thing in how that translates into their own righteousness. Of course an album openly criticising men in no uncertain terms will rustle all the right jimmies (especially when opener Good Guy brandishes lyrics like “It’s not a bad apple, it’s the whole damn tree”), but that’s, without question, the point. If anything, it only supports their case more, where men’s acknowledgment of positions of social power and influence will be handily sequestered upon some perceived ‘victimhood’, upon which the titular doom loop continues to perpetuate itself. And of course, it’s handled with the kind of snark that gets to the whole point far more easily (see the potted timeline of emotionally-stunted-guy-due-to-patriarchal-norms to full-blown incel on Sometimes I Get Lonely, Yeah).
But as always with Dream Nails, there’s a brightness to work towards. On a song like Femme Boi as a celebration of transmasc euphoria, or Kirby’s bristling hook of “I was not born a girl” on Geraniums, Dream Nails’ outlook is one of personal victory, rising to full height in the face of the bastards instead of succumbing to them. It’s not an easy course of action but it’s always a worthwhile one, and that’s the credo that Doom Loop continues to embody. Dream Nails continue to exist as such an important piece of the punk landscape, embracing an individuality and creativity that finds their voice amplified multiple times over. And when said voice has so much drive and value to extol, full and undivided attention is a must.
For fans of: Petrol Girls, Nova Twins, Amyl And The Sniffers
‘Doom Loop’ by Dream Nails is released on 13th October on Marshall Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall