If you’ve ever been to my hometown of Dundas, Ontario, you are, to some degree, aware of its inherent sleepiness. It’s a Shire-esque little sanctuary nestled into the base of the Niagara escarpment on the periphery of Hamilton. It’s also a place that primarily caters to two distinct demographics: adolescent little turds growing up and basking in its forests, parks, and tree-lined tranquility, and those living out their twilight years in a place where time seems to slow down a smidge — where mortality’s vice grip eases up and becomes a gentle guiding hand. The young hellions feel immortal; the old, I would think, feel peacefully escorted towards whatever’s next.
Two-thirds of the Dirty Nil (Luke Bentham, Kyle Fisher, and Ross Miller) are from Dundas as well. We ran in the same circles growing up; we were those adolescent little turds. Because of this, it’s hard for me to separate their music from our shared stomping ground. It brings a giant grin to my face whenever I think about the relentless trajectory of the band’s career thus far, and how their tunes — and their overall grandiosity — are so difficult to square with the town they call home: a town about as rock’n roll as gluten-free bread.
When I listen to “Bathed in Light”, the excellent first single off the band’s upcoming record aptly titled Master Volume, I’m struck by how it captures the conflicting mentalities of Dundas’s young and old, fusing them into a resplendent mess of death and glory. Bentham’s lyrics depict a Springsteen-meets-Westerberg-like death dream full of gas pedals, steering wheels, tandem driving, and hazy visions of escape. In this liminal state, death comes in loud and fast, but it is met with a middle finger, a wry smile, and a coronation featuring none other than Jesus and Elvis. This defiant acceptance strips death of its finality, turning it into something more lifelike than life itself. In this way, the immortality of the young collides head on with the old’s dignified embrace of death; the whole order is upended in Bentham’s sky of light and thunder.
“Bathed in Light” is the Nil at their very best. It’s an infectious, efficient, massive tune that burns white-hot before riding headstrong into the black. Like so many of their songs, its capital-R-Rock’n roll maneuverings work so well because the band completely buys into and exudes the genre’s main tenet: transcendence — of everything from a small town, to reality, to death itself. In its brazen disregard of these supposed boundaries, “Bathed in Light” announces that, while we may die, it doesn’t mean we also can’t live forever.