‘Trauma Factory’ is Joe Mulherin’s (also known as nothing,nowhere.) fourth full-length album, and it is undeniably his most ambitious and intense record to date. The solemn spoken word introductory track of the album harks back to early post-hardcore and emo records, whilst telling you everything that you need to expect from the record: “Human life is a trauma factory”.
Prior to the album’s release, Mulherin had already dropped seven singles – nearly half of the fifteen-track album. The first to appear on the album is lights (4444), a track detailing the experience of being unable to escape withstanding feelings for a past lover. It captures all the best parts of his style: emotionally charged lyrics, a melodic and catchy hook, and an instrumental which incorporates emo guitars with hip-hop hi-hats and 808s.
The following track, buck, fuses hard-hitting chorus vocals which are almost yelled at points, with an instrumental with uncompromising percussion to match. The track is infused with passion and aggressive emotion, and it is perhaps the most impressive non-single track on the record.
Mulherin debates love versus lust
However, love or chemistry immediately challenges buck for this title. It’s fast-paced verses are mirrored through the lyrics: “I do it for the thrill, adrenaline”, before the instrumental slows down during the hook of the track to a focus on a dark, moody acoustic guitar, as Mulherin debates love versus lust.
The repetitiveness of exile is the track’s downfall, with the repeated “yeah, yeah, yeah” throughout the chorus beginning to feel a bit stale after multiple listens. It is by no means a bad track, and will definitely be to some people’s taste, but for me it is one of the weakest on the project.
Luckily, it is followed immediately by upside down, one of the album’s strongest singles. The track’s pop-leaning instrumental features bouncy drums and understated piano keys, the perfect basis for the melodic and catchy hook. As the most pop-leaning track Mulherin has ever released, this is the first truly experimental moment on the album, but it is definitely not the last.
MISOGI is the first featuring artist to appear on the record, on a track titled pain place, and he really brings the song to life. They are familiar collaborators, with this being their fourth track released together. MISOGI takes care of the second verse, as well as the outro, where unexpected strings are integrated into the track as the instrumental fades out.
the track is about metaphorically killing the relationships that you have with people who you care about
Two more featuring artists appear later on the record, both contributing to the track blood. KennyHoopla is credited for vocals on the second verse, whilst JUDGE is credited for co-producing the track. Recorded in only twenty minutes, the track is about metaphorically killing the relationships that you have with people who you care about due to destructive mental health.
The moments where Mulherin experiments with pop-punk sounds are the most successful. The listener’s first taste of this is fake friend, which is personally my favourite track on the whole record. The track captures the spirit of pop-punk through its emotion-fuelled lyrics, alongside a huge full-band instrumental with electric guitars and clashing drums. It sounds much bigger than anything Mulherin has ever released before.
NOT SURE WHAT TO SAY. WORKED SO HARD ON THIS RECORD FOR SO LONG. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR LISTENING. TRAUMA FACTORY 4444 pic.twitter.com/wHRKMnhzYk— TRAUMA FACTORY OUT NOW (@nothingnowhere) February 19, 2021
The only other song on the album which comes close to sounding as huge is pretend. The guitars may not be as heavily layered or prominent, but the chorus still remains powerful and hard-hitting. The verses are almost rapped, resulting in the perfect fusion of Mulherin’s emo-rap roots with his new-found pop-punk strength.
These two pop-punk tracks are separated by death, which is perhaps the most unexpected track on the album, and one of the most interesting. It is, without any doubt, the most aggressive song Mulherin has ever released. The opening verse is rapped forcefully and assertively, followed by the whispered, repeated hook “I scare myself to death”. The tension builds before escalating into a full guitar breakdown, accompanied by a shouted, chanted version of this hook. The song definitely demonstrates his versatility as an artist – but sometimes it can be too heavy for my personal taste, and I have to be in the correct mood to listen to it.
the track is fuelled by dark angst
The final single to appear on the album is nightmare, another personal favourite of mine. Described as a “dystopian 80’s Miami Beach fever dream” by Mulherin himself, written whilst he repeatedly watched the film Purple Rain, the track is fuelled by dark angst as he fumes over being rejected in favour of another man.
The pace of the record slows for the final three tracks, with crave being the first sign that the album is beginning to come to a natural close. Reminiscent of his previous record ‘ruiner’, the track is typical of the emo-rap genre. Despite being considerably less experimental than the middle of the album, it is nice to see Mulherin not entirely abandoning his much-loved roots.
The penultimate track, real, again follows this theme. A slow-paced ballad with singing vocals on the chorus and rapped verses, the track continues to end the album on a note of familiarity for long-term fans, as the track similarly sounds like it could have appeared on ‘ruiner’.
However, rather than end the album on another slow-paced ballad, Mulherin ensures that the record ends on a memorable note. Despite initially appearing to be a simple ballad, barely bleeding subverts all expectations, as the track builds up to a crescendo of passionate and emotion-infused vocals, alongside a full-band, guitar-driven instrumental.
‘Trauma Factory’ demonstrates that Mulherin shines brightest when he has a full-band behind him, as the moments with the densest and heaviest instrumentals are the highlights of the record. However, his versatility and bravery when experimenting is something that must be admired. His successful execution of these experimentations ultimately results in a varied, exciting and impressive album.
In-article images courtesy of @nothingnowhere via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.
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