If you are one of those people who says “I never pay attention to the lyrics, I just listen to the music,” then Passive’s NØ 1 is going to be one of the best albums of the year that you never really listened to. This Vancouver band’s lyrics are just as important as any chord the guitars strike. These often brilliantly smug antidotes are set against a uniquely aggressive approach to indie rock. It’s no secret I like my music dark, and Passive operates in angry shades of gray that are brooding enough to satisfy that need. They tend to blur genre lines to become hazy once they gain momentum. Just when you think you have them pegged for a punk band, they pull out some slacker rock jangle or something closer to Sonic Youth’s zip code on “Vulture Halo.” The blown out fuzz of guitar that overpowers your speakers gives the vocals a blanket to relax upon. Much like someone about to have a psychotic break and go postal, they allow the intensity to build inside the songs until the only way to release this pent up anger is by banging at their instruments with an almost metal aggression.
From the hammering out burst of noise driven punk on “Darling Hold the Line” that shows their more punk side to the guitar’s jangly clang on “It’s Only the Sun” they prove how dynamic they can be as frenetic fuzz of guitar collapses into twinkling clean guitar before hitting you a sonic tornado. They suck you into the eye of the song creating one of those beautiful moments where a band gets really heavy without being metal. “Dining With the Languid” finds their singer raising his voice out of the more casual croon, adding a little more diaphragm support to his voice to crate an indignant shout of revelation. This song’s slow doom-like pound leads to a Jim Morrison diatribe, where the year’s best lyrics – “You ever wish that coked-up Darwin could be given free reign for just an hour?” – are exclaimed.
“Holy Nation” could be the drunken garage tapes of Interpol, as their singer asks nonchalantly if you will be his sugar-coated slave. Musically, the outlook becomes brighter, even set against the sardonic lyrics, where the singer is asking someone who has fucked up their own disguise to get out of their life on “Smile at the End of the Rope.” They take a minute and a half for the dreary chords of “Only By Your Given Name” to come together in a morose ballad that builds into an explosion of noise-draped battering ram power chords. This album might take a few listens before you figure out what the hell is going on. Fans of post-punk will find it has the right sonic places for them, and indie rock kids who are not afraid of something that actually rocks will want to play this at high volume; here’s hoping this band gets some much deserved recognition for making something that could easily go down as one of the last great rock albums.