09 February 2018 (released)
09 February 2018
Have you ever felt sparks race up your spine as a flash of lighting rips wide an inky black horizon? Ever heard the rumble of the earth and the shattering of glass as an earthquake shakes your city? Ever been tempted to take to the streets, put your fists in the air and totally obliterate the status quo? Distil these feelings into an album, and you have National Insecurity.
Opening with 'Everybody Is Not Me' the pounding drums lock a fist around you heart that will not let go, and from that moment on your body belongs to TOTL. National Insecurity is physical; each track will force your head to nod and your heart to pound in different ways, and if you can't taste leather by the midpoint of 'Vaporise The Bitch', then you haven't been listening. At first this album may seem simplistic (especially to those who aren't fans of repetitive chants) however, hidden depths lay just beneath its polished black surface.
Initially I felt the lyrics could use a little work, however as this thought occurred, their guttural, brute honesty took me from sceptical critic to wanton revolutionary - this album is a battle cry, a call to arms and I have no doubt TOTL could build a career purely from penning protest chants.
It's hard to pick a standout performance from the album; the first thing that strikes you as you listen is its sheer quality. For a first release (or indeed a fifth) this album is serious, technical and sophisticated with a maturity that can only come from a band with a clear goal in mind and a serious amount of tour time behind them. This is perfectly demonstrated by 'Simply Eaten', the closing track on the album that features an anthemic sound and measured pace that usually requires decades for bands to develop the restraint needed to finesse. This song has the further virtue of typifying the staggering vocal abilities of Carla Tully to imbue relatively minimalist lyrics with everything from passionate vulnerability to a steely resolve and an infernal, burning fury. I would follow Carla anywhere, and her power is not simply a product of force; even when her voice nearly approaches a whisper, you become totally captivated by her half-mocking, half-murderous tone and the epiphanies she nonchalantly drops at your feet.
This is not to say that the other artists in TOTL are in any way secondary to Carla; coupled with Adam's bone-shattering bass and Arun's outstanding drum work (the hip-hop influences on the album are undeniable and perfectly integrated) this trifecta is far more than the sum of its parts and takes the listener from empathy, to anger, to defiance and all the way back again.
Reaching a particularly dark point with 'Vaporise The Bitch', the occasional humour of this album dies to be replaced by baleful imagery that takes you from the open streets and into a sinister alley: this song will disturb you, as it should, and it shifts the tone of National Insecurity from defiant to dangerous, making it impossible to ignore.
If you don't want to think, unfortunately this isn't the album for you. However if you're looking for words to put to the ache of modern dysphoria then 'Sign My Name' reads like a manifesto. Concurrently, 'Rather Be Dead Than Be Fake' holds up a broken mirror to every vapid, imagistic individual and cuts them to pieces with the shards before taking those pieces and hurling them in the face of society en-masse; including you.
Each track on this album will push and shove you in a different direction, and often you'll come out with more questions than answers. National insecurity forces us to take a long look at ourselves and our society through the eyes of those with no love for either. This is not to say that this album is only deconstructive, it simply confronts you with the truth, drops the mic and walks away: it is up to you to respond. The titular track 'National Insecurity' is less of a question and more of an accusation that if you find impossible to answer, you will also find impossible to forget.
My only issues with this album have to do with occasional lyrical choices, however even in my own head the jury is still out on whether that's a true criticism, or my inability to appreciate the brilliance of their powerful simplicity.
National Insecurity is listenable, inspirational and fantastically goading. Arun, Carla and Adam embody genuine, gritty resolve, and if their music doesn't inspire you to make some change in yourself or at large, then nothing will.
Can't wait to hear more.
Catch Thunder On The Left on tour from February 12th.
TOTL on Spotify