EP Review: Do Nothing // Zero Dollar Bill

In the space of 6 months or so, Do Nothing have emerged from relative obscurity; having released their debut single over two years ago.

Leaking tracks at such a leisurely pace and vying for press attention amongst a long list of inventive UK guitar bands has carved a space for the group to thrive as a voice of the fringes – a mouthpiece for the wrongfully overlooked, the embittered intellectual.

Adopting a sprechgesang (or spoken-singing) delivery allows frontman Chris Bailey to assume a type of character throughout  Zero Dollar Bill’s five tracks. Recently comparing himself to Old Gil from the Simpsons, Bailey verbalises the frustrations and rhetoricals that we all harbour; with subject matter ranging from online scammers, to empty proverbs.

From album opener ‘Comedy Gold’, to closing number (and recent single) ‘LeBron James’, Do Nothing incorporate the jangly, wood-panelled Englishness of Pub-Rock and the cold authority of Post-Punk to provoke a whole rainbow of colour in the most monotone of parcels.

Unreleased track ‘New Life’ shows Bailey’s songwriting at it’s best, with each line conjuring imagery that raises more questions than it answers. Some are delivered with frantic amplification, some with quiet tenderness, but from “Please don’t try to stab me while I’m eating”, to “Say something, God dammit, you’re on TV!”, there are a thousand short stories within this two and a half minute song.

At the tail-end of 2019, NME Journalist Mark Beaumont classified Do Nothing, along with Fontaines, Squid and several others within a new scene of artists, dubbing the assemble ‘Crank Wave’, or ‘guitar bands with a singer who sounds like someone having a psychotic episode in a debating society’.

As Zero Dollar Bill rolls through, it would be reductive to say that Do Nothing fit alongside any of these peers directly, as exciting as each band may be. Fontaines are more poetic and serious and Squid convey a sense of surreal frenzy, whereas Do Nothing live firmly in overcast reality. the Nottingham band amalgamate drips of Jarvis Cocker’s wry witticisms, James Murphy’s singular voice and David Byrne’s wackiness.

The music exhibited on Zero Dollar Bill is not bombastic in any way and none of these tracks will ever be considered party anthems. What this release nails, however, is the ingredient that makes it so easy to revisit; those little flickers of vulnerability amongst the cold, detached commentary in each song on the EP.

You may not hear it on the first, or even the tenth listen, but once – maybe twice – in each of these tracks, Bailey seems to break this mindfully-crafted character. Whether it’s in the first pre-chorus of ‘Fits’, or in the unravelled climax to ‘Contraband’ as he pleads “Would you still love me if my hair falls out? / Would you make sure that I don’t do too much now?”.

These tiny, subtle payoffs are the active ingredient in tying this collection of songs together and making sense of Do Nothing. This band are all of us; exasperated and frustrated and – whether we showcase it often or not – a little bit vulnerable.

Rating: ★★★★★

Featured image: Adrian Vitelleschi Cook

Author avatar
Matt Ganfield

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