It’s hard to write about Nonagon, a Chicago-rooted band whose latest pocket full of cuts and volts is a 12-inch EP titled The Last Hydronaut, without using words like blistering or conjuring up images of what a caged animal sounds like after it’s been poked and prodded, jabbed and jabbered at, then let loose. For good reason — this modest little trio, which recently joined NYC’s The Austerity Program to launch Controlled Burn Records, is a mean son-of-a-bitch and has the chops to prove it. And the latest EP only firms up the resume.
Let’s delineate all of the whallop and punch of Hydronaut’s six songs, even if that would be sucking some of the life out of it. Well, have at it. ”Razing All Boats” rages, ”The Pfister” paces nervously and explodes, and ”King Corky” shows that there’s texture to the blade. On the second side, ”Elvis” plods and hammers, ”Affinity Fraud” scorches the skin, and the closing ”Hydronauts” punches you in the face but shows hints of emotive regret at doing so. And how about that closing? Sheesh. Furious and stunningly precise.
Blender analogies are for suckers and G-men, but let’s just say Nonagon hammers down the time of In On The Kill Taker-era Fugazi, calls to mind the speed of Albini’s Rapeman or, maybe, the more venomous moments of Shellac At Action Park, and elicits the velocity of Naked Raygun or maybe the underrated Pegboy. It’s that good. Yep, it’s good for the soul, too, part of a balanced goddamned breakfast.
Listening to the group’s growing catalog — three EPs in the aughts and teens, to date, all together a tremendous full-length — you would think that John Hastie, Robert Gomez and Tony Aimone didn’t get the memo that Touch-and-Go is now a boutique label and Fugazi broke up (or, sorry, Ian, sorry, disappointed everyone and went on indefinite hiatus) a decade ago. This is vintage post-punk, played with all the jazzy angularities and all of the piss and vinegar coursing through the track list. Six songs in less than 20 minutes? Yes, I’ll take a spin again.
In 2008, which seems like eternity ago, when Nonagon self-released its too-short debut EP, No Sun, I posited that ”the group flashes moments of inspiration where dynamism trumps speed.” That’s evident on all the trio’s recordings, from No Sun through People Live Everywhere to the current EP in question, and it’s just a fancy-pants way of saying that these guys are quick to go for the throat but they don’t do it without technique.
There’s a lot of rage on The Last Hydronaut, which is available on vinyl and as a digital download through Bandcamp, but there’s also a lot of trees in the forest these guys have labored to cut down. There’s an artistry on display that does punk proud. The fact that, yeah, these guys are pretty pissed off only deepens the level of DIY commitment. Spin it again and you’ll hear the Hallelujahs. These guys are mad as hell, and they’ve got the verses to prove they’re carrying the mantle from those who’ve come before them.
Do yourself a favor and tune in.