Like Yuck or The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, there’s something about Bored Nothing that sounds immediately familiar to anyone who grew up on ?90s indie: a dEUS melodic inflection here, a Wedding Present drum fill there, layered Flying Nun guitars and a grab bag of alterna influences covering everything from Sebadoh and Pavement to Superchunk and Built to Spill.
If that sounds dismissive, it’s not intended as such. There are two reasons for this. One is that Bored Nothing is a single person, a 22-year-old Melbournian named Fergus Miller who looks like Lou Barlow’s younger, nerdier brother and plays every damn thing on the album (save one guitar part and a keyboard line), as well as recording and producing the thing at home.
The second and rather more important reason is that Miller writes exceptional songs. Sounding like other acts is only a problem if the lifts are obvious or the songs are substandard, and neither is the case on this self-titled debut. This isn’t indie-by-numbers: this is an album made by a kid that loves all the same records you do.
Take the gentle opener ?Shit for Brains?: a mid-paced strummer with bilious lyrics of self-loathing of which the ghost of Elliot Smith would approve heartily. It’s followed by some wafty shoegaze in the form of ?Popcorn?, all major-fifth vocals and a searingly tinny fuzz-guitar break sounding like a low-budget My Bloody Valentine circa Isn’t Anything. Contrast that with ?Just Another Maniac?, whose chorus builds to a Sparklehorse crescendo while the drifting waltz of single ?Bliss? ebbs and flows on a wash of guitars and close two-part harmonies.
If the late Smith is suggested by the opening track, the acoustic ?Get Out of Here? makes the debt explicit – from the conversational lyrics to the intimate clicks of Miller’s close-miked voice. (For any speech pathologists wanting more detail: it happens particularly on his plosives, especially d and t). Then there are the fragile, double-tracked vocals and hope-free lyrics of the lilting ?Charlie’s Creek?. On the other hand, ?Darcy? and ?Echo Room? is what Silversun Pickups would sound like if they could just get over their Smashing Pumpkins-isms for one goddamn second, and ?I Wish You Were Dead? could be a lost classic by early Ride. And ?Build A Bridge (And Then Think How About You Get The Fuck Over It)? is worth inclusion for the title alone.
Sonically it suffers a little from being clearly the work of a budget: drum and bass sounds remain pretty much the same from song to song, with guitars poking above the surface. But for the most part the recurring effects and sounds give the album unity. It’s nothing you’ve never heard before, sure, but that’s only because Bored Nothing is the best album that Matador failed to produce in 1994. Of course, Miller would have been four back then so – better late than never.