Sometimes, I don’t think I understand what punk rock is. That’s probably for good reason — punk can be anything for anyone. Whether it’s expressing an opinion, dealing with a political issue, or just having fun with friends, punk is a scene designed to be all-inclusive (especially if you’re an outcast). NOTS takes advantage of this on their newest release, Cosmetic. An all-female punk band from Memphis, NOTS seems to have something to prove.
NOTS: Genre-Bending and Blending Cosmetics
Cosmetic is another one of those albums that took me a while to get into. Upon first listen, it just comes off abrasive to me. However, diving deeper into the nine track album gives a little more perspective, and makes listening easier.
The album starts out with a fast-paced tom-and-snare intro with “Blank Reflection.” Then, the bass and a wah/synth-influenced guitar kick in, followed by what sounds like an indie rock homage to classic spy movie guitar. The drums and bass definitely drive this track, which is accompanied by some loud singing [see: yelling]. It definitely takes root in garage-punk, while also playing around with ideas of femme-punk.
A bit later on, “Rat King” starts out in a similar way. The drums start with a tom-and-snare beat, followed by a bass and synth blend. It doesn’t sound the same, but it definitely becomes a prominent recurrence in the album. Drums and bass lead a lot of the track intros (three or four of the nine tracks start this way). Not to say that it’s a bad thing, but I would have liked to have seen a little more variation.
The title track, “Cosmetic” is an exception to the drum and bass formula. It goes straight for the kill, blending an already strange guitar lead with an alien-like wah-lead. It’s perhaps the most interesting song on the album, completely turning the sound that I’d been used to hearing on this album on its head. It’s one of the only songs that takes it slow — though it speeds up a lot midway through the song.
The album ends with “Entertain Me,” which starts with a strange guitar, eerie muted picking sequence, then kicks in with a drum-and-bass filled secondary intro. The guitar almost seems unnecessary at this point. “Entertain me / Tell me who to be / [what to say] / [what to see].” I don’t know what to take from this, which are the lyrics repeated throughout most of the song. Perhaps it’s a plea for the idea of individualism. Or, perhaps, it’s the singer expressing a need to be told how to act. I believe the former.
Overall, Cosmetic is a strange release to me. It doesn’t fit the norm, but I can’t escape the feeling that it comes off a bit disingenuous. It’s a good release for anyone into femme-punk or indie punk, but I won’t lie and say that it’ll make my top releases of the year. So, with that advice, I’d highly advise you to listen to this album and pass your own judgement on it.