No - Can You Dig It? (Cover Artwork)


Can You Dig It? (2012)

Electric Indian Records

Connecticut three-piece No is in possession of something rare: that inimitable, smile-inducing blend of hardcore authority and rock 'n' roll playfulness. The trio recognize its twofold responsibility as a punk band: to provide visceral catharsis and, simply, to have fun. Moreover, they know how to fuse the two so tightly that most listeners wouldn't be able to find the seam. Punk rock monotony is shattered at every corner of Can You Dig It? with scaling, busy basslines and a genuine sense of funk. Breakdowns like the one in the title track are pure Minutemen, and it doesn't hurt that singer/guitarist/engineer Carlo Frese sounds like a more intimidating, potentially athletic D Boon.
These guys have a sound that only works because they're so damn good at their instruments, but No are almost peerless for that same reason. Most other bands would incorporate a funky, solo-heavy breakdown as a wink, an ironic gesture to reveal the whole thing as an act not to be taken seriously. But this isn't Jello Biafra aping "My Sharona" for laughs. It's more like Paul Westerberg's totally sincere piano break on "We're Coming Out"–a direct subversion of audience expectation, but with the higher goal of actually improving the song.
No aren't "less" than a punk band, or a jokey "twist" on the genre. No are simply a band with enough talent and energy–lest we forget the latter, the only crucial ingredient in a worthwhile punk act–not just to play solid, straight-up rock 'n' roll, but to add heaping tablespoons of weird, original flavor without overdoing it or coming across as an ephemeral gimmick. Sadly, it's something of a gamble to be challenging in punk rock these days, but as Carlo sings in "Do What You Want," "How you gonna grow if you don't take a risk, following the patterns that assure you never miss? I say do what you want." If it means tunes like this, the men of No can do whatever they damn well please.