87/100 — NoMeansNo — Wrong (1989)

Who consistently has my favourite bass tone? Rob Wright (aka Mr. Wrong.) Who consistently blows my mind with his fusion of jazz skills and punk-rock aggression on the drums? John Wright (aka Mr. Right.) These BC-born brothers and punk rock elder statesmen are (some occasionaly help) NoMeansNo. They may not be the most famous Vancouver punk group (that honour is probably reserved for D.O.A.) but they are definitely one of the most beloved. Wrong showcases what the brothers Right & Wrong do best: balls-to-the-wall, nihilistic, jazz-laced punk rock, crazy bass lines, left turns, and a good dose of humour.

Case in point, “Big Dick” with its infectiously aggressive disco groove (just listen to those freaking DRUMS), tribal break down, and lyrical dismantling of gorilla-like alpha-male behaviour (grunts included) and jokes about picking up a girl by bragging, “Actually I’m a political science major.” Or “Oh No! Bruno!” with it’s Ramones-style repetition (we’ll talk more about this in a forthcoming review) and a story about a big dummy being framed and going to prison.

Musically there are so many facets to NoMeansNo. Sometimes things get a little heavy-metal like on “The Tower,” a dreadful nightmare. “I Am Wrong” begins with a demented choir of tuneless yowls, before bursting forth into what is almost an irish jig of denial driven false-happiness before collapsing into terror again. “End of the World” is almost a ballad, but the only instrument is an overdriven bass guitar which keeps it sinister.

The centrepiece of the album (literally and thematically) is “Rags and Bones.” It opens with a brilliantly slinky bass line (Rob’s speciality), and tells a story of a bitter and broken heart, nihilistic dread, and pagan/religious imagery:

Well, Christ was married on the cross
My father was married to my mother
And I am married to a cigarette butt
Lying in the gutter

There’s also like four or five different riffs/grooves on the song but they all fit together to make a greater whole. It’s brilliant, and it’s one of the best vocal performances on the record. Rob and John’s vocal interplay can be funny, frightening, and very evocative and nowhere is this showcased better than on “Rags and Bones.”

I can’t write about NoMeansNo without mentioning my cousin Dan again. He introduced me to them, he gave me one of his old tour shirts which I wore until the armpit holes were bigger than oranges. He told me stories of getting elected to student council and then blowing the whole budget on getting NoMeansNo to drive to his small town high school for a concert. For almost a decade of listening to and loving this band’s vicious depression and silliness, I met maybe a handful of people who had even heard of them. In someways I felt like they belonged to Dan and me. I don’t think that will ever change. Miss you Dan.

Part of me wonders if more NoMeansNo records will end up in my Top 100 if I ever do it again. At least two albums have a shot: 0+2=1 with it’s sinister silliness, or Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie with it’s varied approach and violent self-deprecation. But for now, Wrong continues to tower above them both.

Favourite Tracks: “Rags and Bones”, “Big Dick”, “Oh No! Bruno!”

Least Favourite Track: “State of Grace”