No one knows what to expect from a band whose influences consist of Weezer, Title Fight, and The Police. Remo Drive’s sound is hard to describe, but their debut album Greatest Hits felt celebratory, chaotic, and rebellious. Almost as rebellious as titling a debut album “Greatest Hits.”
Either way, Remo Drive are more of an attitude than they are a band—song titles like “Art School” and “Eat Shit” seem to coat the music in a youthful carelessness and that is essentially what lies at the heart of the band. A sort of optimistic nihilist perspective runs rampant through tracks about the urge to run away from home, dealing with problems and responsibilities alone, and wishing for pity. Natural, Everyday Degradation is similar in its wit and its ironic joviality, but it’s bolder, serving as a theatrical, nihilistic commentary on run-of-the-mill life.
It feels all a bit apocalyptic. It’s at a gas station where the album begins on “Two Bux,” zooming in on a moment of what Remo Drive intriguingly illustrate as “moralistic musing.” It starts with the seamlessly enticing proclamation, “God and I have never talked but I still play by her rules.” The whole song plays out like a scene in a movie. It’s everything—vivid, striking, and conflicting, especially with the persistent question: “Will my god that I never believed in be upset if I break a rule?”
It’s a boldly sacrilegious statement that works as many questions in the form of one. Most of all, it’s ironic and a little shocking. Why do people trick themselves into using religion as a guise for morals? Why don’t they just break the rules; who would care? Why does anyone have morals at all? It’s all narrated with the nonchalance of a punk song, like Remo Drive themselves are the gods overlooking the humans, untouched and even entertained.
“The Devil,” explores spirituality and morality as well, discussing a blending of good and bad, or, more literally, the joining of the devil and angel. Their consummation yields a lack of truth which summons all kinds of morbid discoveries: “The white wallpaper slowly browned / And as it peeled and fell to the ground / The earth was exposed as itself,” “Catching my mind in the strangest places, like visions of a temperate kind of hell. / Amenities and drinks in frosted glass.”
Although it’s filled with externally apocalyptic images, the real tumult is all inside, and it’s enough to color everything complicated. The external and internal merge with the upfront admission: “The sun in my eyes and my heart so full, I can’t tell if it’s tight from fear or love. / The mystery’s alluring and all, / But I’d like to know how to feel.” It’s the second time on the album that Remo Drive reject the allure of spiritual complexities, reluctantly, as though they’ve been fooled before, but know better now.
It feels matured, like a revelation struck, and instead of blindly following the way things are, answers are wanted. The disconnect is evident—“None of my history feels like a part of me or my life”—and there seems to be trouble grappling with this absence of truth. The nonchalance is ultimately the product of a lack of motivation, a fundamental passivity, that leaves them constantly wondering and thinking “oh well.”
The passivity is palpable in dull love track “Ezra and Maria” that tells the story of a slowly decaying relationship. Despite the awareness of the ongoing failure of their connection, they continue to kiss, emotionlessly, like mannequins, and look at other people with attraction almost accidentally. It’s all set up as if it’s inevitable, like Remo Drive want us to believe that love cannot last, like one day having sex with our significant other will be as simple as: “They’re back at home lying naked / There’s a job to do so they do it.”
The monotony drags on throughout the lyrics, but are sung theatrically to the sound of uplifting, jaunty music—it kind of feels like Remo Drive are having a great time telling us that life is inexorably terrible. It is optimistic nihilism on steroids. In the bridge of “Separate Beds,” they unapologetically declare: “Because nothing perfect lasts forever,” which essentially lies at the heart of the album. A
lthough they’re showcasing this idea in different stereotypical scenarios, there are still attempts to try to break free from the cycle and change the alleged fate, like glimpses of hope. “Dog” retaliates the inevitable by reassuring, “Honey I’m sure you’re wearing thin watching my eyes grow distant / I know ‘I love you’ sounds more like a chant lately / But I still mean it.” It’s one of the few moments in the album that brings relief rather than an existential crisis.
Otherwise, Remo Drive are still fully committed to nihilism, as they highlight the apocalyptic energies that echo reality. In “Halos,” a remarkable song about trying to overcome the numbness with indulgence, the band patronizes: “You wouldn’t survive without dependence on something / Drinks or big cigars / Drugs prescribed or self-sought / You wouldn’t survive without a way to pass the time / Clothes or antique cars / Songs once heard and then forgot.” It feels like a call-out, for which they offer no particular remedy. They are reclaiming their positions as gods watching everything fall apart with a laugh.
Remo Drive have mastered the art of dark comedy. It’s easy to miss the chaos and mistake it for just another emo record with sad lyrics to happy music, but the brilliance of the misery and the playful sadism is notable. Very little, if anything, is frivolous about Natural, Everyday Degradation, yet you could spin it any time, like at a party, and it just works. Still, if you’re aware of the message, it may be relieving when the song ends and you’re tossed back into your life full of natural and everyday degradation. Try to tune out Remo Drive’s voices saying, “I think it’s time we give this shit up.”