Nothing More to Say
Reggae is where country stars head when they want to trade their domestic beers for Red Stripes, and where guys like Dylan, Richards, and Willie ease into their own busman’s holidays. But if the strains of Jamaica are sweet enough to soundtrack beach trips and lazy days at the pool, they’re also supple enough to bear real burdens. This is music with struggle hardwired into its DNA, and on their debut album Nothing More to Say, The Frightnrs sound sweet while singing about sorrow. Though these songs bounce and glide with easygoing grace and dexterity, there is melancholy at their root. They’re poems spun by the rivers of Babylon. Not for nothing does the album begin with a song called “All My Tears.”
Nothing More to Say is the inaugural reggae release from Daptone, and it eases gently into the label’s now-familiar aesthetic: it’s made to sound like it was found in a bin somewhere, reclaimed from the golden age of vinyl. The sound is purposefully retro but the performances are full of life. The Frightnrs treat reggae like the folk form that it is; though they play these traditional sounds fairly straight, they understand that the pleasures here are in inflection, the camaraderie of players, little moments of spontaneity. They fill the record with rocksteady rhythms, barbed-wire guitar lines, and cascading harmonies marked with little flourishes of doo-wop, gospel, and the blues.
Hard times provide the subtext but also the meta text here, as what was meant to be the Queens band’s first flush of promise has also become something of a last will and testament. Between the time the album was recorded and the time of its release, frontman Dan Klein succumbed to the ravages of ALS. Nothing More to Say is their statement on how things fall apart—but when it’s playing, you can’t help but be caught up in the purity and innocence of Klein’s tenor, never overly burdened by the significance of what these songs would come to mean. What he does here is beautiful and true: he sings not to pity himself but to lift all of our burdens; these are, in their way, redemption songs. And nothing more needs to be said.