Song of the day: NOMEANSNO – The Graveyard Shift (2000)

Sometimes Nomeansno can be really annoying. They are responsible for some of the most visceral, angry, complex and intelligent music ever to be tarred with the broad brush of punk rock. They can also dick around like a dumb-cartoon band. The two chord ice-hockey obsessed nerdishness is fine when it appears on a Hanson Brothers disc, ’cause that’s what you expect, but all too often the jokiness on the mothership albums just gets in the way. The last album, All Roads Lead To Ausfahrt, was particularly guilty of that. The best albums are when the clowning is kept to a minimum and the bile is given free reign. Small Parts Isolated And Destroyed from 1989 is one such record, and One from eleven years later is cut from the same cloth. Famous as the one with the sixteen minute Miles Davis cover (“Bitches Brew”), there is a lot more to the record than that. And in “The Graveyard Shift”, Nomeansno came up with one of their strongest ever tracks.

The protagonist is a security guard working through the dead of night. He’s not unhappy with his lot – far from it. It’s a job where he can cut himself off and forget, somewhere he doesn’t have to face up to how screwed up things have become:

I like the graveyard shift
It’s quiet, I can read all night
I don’t mind wearing a uniform
I don’t mind walking in the dark
You make your rounds, you check all the locks
And when the sun rises, when everyone is getting up
You punch out and go home

It’s a life that is so much easier than the one he has come from where there were “too many secrets to keep / Too many obstacles to overcome / And all that talk just made me tired“. It’s a grim picture of a man at the end of his tether who has decided to turn his back on the world. If the lyrics may be a little on the maudlin side, the music is brutal, indicative of the pent up, repressed emotions inside. There is a majestic guitar riff that underpins the whole song, and there is a vehemence to the performance which never fails to set the adrenalin running. It’s inspiring stuff.

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