The Dirty Nil - Free Rein To Passions (Cover Artwork)

The Dirty Nil

Free Rein To Passions (2023)

Dine Alone Records

At this point, The Dirty Nil are both a part of the fabric of alternative rock and something of an island. They are more typically accepted and celebrated by the underground elements of the guitar music world yet write songs that feel like they’ve been rock club staples for the last 2 or 3 decades. I guess they have a knack for writing songs people could refer to as ‘timeless’. And that’s a good thing, right? Then why aren’t The Dirty Nil absolutely fucking huge? Charisma by the bucketload, clean vocals, massive singalong songs…what’s up?

I think the answer lies in The Dirty Nil’s integrity, such as it is. That and the contemporary commercial music landscape, anyway. Their apparent lack of interest in writing songs or having their music produced in anything approaching a chart-baiting way is conspicuous. Even more so because I’m sure they’ve had offers. Doubtless some will have been more enticing or lucrative than others and some they might have even considered or entertained. But the thing that is clearer to see, 4 records proper, multiple singles, EP’s and stand-alone songs across the last 7-8 years is that The Dirty Nil are a band who want to play the songs they like. And arguably, they play even more mainstream-averse tunes across this new record. The opener ‘Celebration’ begins with muted E string chugs and pinch harmonics and the title track starts with the lyric “Get your fucking body moving now!”. Not liable to be garnering much rotation on daytime radio, it’s fair to say.

However, with the record weighing in at ten tracks and just over half an hour, its framework could almost be described as poppy. At very least it can be characterised as easy to consume. They also do a brilliant job of evoking certain feelings through storytelling. Songs like ‘Blowing Things Up In The Woods’ and ‘Stupid Jobs’ are about exactly what they sound, but bring to mind themes of freedom, personal agency, anti-authority sensibilities and the joy of reckless abandon. But if I wasn’t analysing this record for the purposes of this review, they could just be a couple of great, catchy rock songs.

I honestly believe that The Dirty Nil would be vastly bigger than they are if they came to prominence in any of the previous 3 decades as opposed to the 10’s/20’s. But I’m also equally convinced that they couldn’t give a shit either way. This way they don’t have the incumbency or pressure of major labels and execs telling them what they should sound like to shift units. And the upshot is that we get a band writing the music they want to write and playing it the way they want to play. And that is an approach few bands with such obvious star potential get to retain. At this point, it’s hard to imagine what could prise that from The Dirty Nil’s grasp, I’m very glad to say. And that’s integrity, folks.