An alarm clock opens Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere, and a new day begins for Terry Malts. If their previous album Killing Time was a love-struck, ‘til-the-sun-comes-up party, NRTIN is the morning after, and Terry Malts are in a miserable way, seeing the world how it really is. No wonder why singer/bassist Phil Benson repeatedly sings “I don’t wanna go” on the opening track “Two Faces”.
The San Fran trio’s only conscious move on NRTIN was to not overdo love songs because Killing Time was filled with them. But Terry Malts haven’t just scaled back the number of love songs; they’ve nearly gone the complete opposite direction. Song titles that are negative at least outside of their lyrical contexts more than dominate the album. And not that Killing Time doesn’t have its smears of misanthropy, but negativity is all over NRTIN. Even sentiments such as “There may be no tomorrow / So live like there is no tomorrow” (“No Tomorrow”) can’t help but feel cautionary rather than inspiring: live in the moment, or you’ll be filled with regrets. And while it seems healthy to be “Well Adjusted”, Terry Malts aren’t declaring their state-of-being; they’re asking, “Why’s everyone so well adjusted? / My calibration must be busted.” What does it mean to be normal in a sick society? Maybe this is why Terry Malts “don’t wanna go.” I wouldn’t blame them if they keep reaching for the snooze button.
Lyrically, Terry Malts have described NRTIN as a better-rounded album – “more mature,” they seemed to have implied. The music is certainly less rushed or predictable than the speeding bullet punk of Killing Time. But for those who are familiar with Terry Malts’ roots, this isn’t too surprising; all three members descended from Magic Bullets, after all, an outfit deeply inspired by the likes of Orange Juice, Morrissey and the Cure. Slightly harking back to such influences, Benson’s crooning, which didn’t quite work for some listeners on the extremely upbeat Killing Time, doesn’t sound so out of place on NRTIN.
To say I had major apprehensions about NRTIN, the follow-up to one of my top five albums of 2012, would be to understate. Killing Time was such a perfect pop-punk record misplaced in time, I didn’t know how I was going to cope with something that was, in my eyes, destined to have been sub-par. I’m glad Terry Malts haven’t tried to keep pace with Killing Time though, instead giving NRTIN its own rhythm. And while I find it problematic that the band seemingly equates negativity, a bleak world outlook, bemoaning life’s larger issues and writing more dynamic songs with maturity, the album still rocks. If that’s all I really have to bemoan, I can certainly get out of bed for that, no matter how hard I partied last night.