NoMeansNo Biography

An ‘artcore’ trio from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, NoMeansNo have done much to expand the boundaries of the ‘hardcore’ genre, fusing funk and fuzz pop with a continually questioning lyrical stance. The first established line-up featured Andrew Kerr (guitar) and the brothers Rob Wright (bass) and John Wright (drums). Kerr joined shortly after their 1984 debut, Mama. Taking their name from the phrase commonly used in connection with the rights of rape victims, their lyrics explore the middle ground between the individual and society, often in tones of self-disgust: ‘nobody knows you and nobody wants to’ (from ‘Body Bag’). Though some of their early efforts lose impact through their disjointed nature, by 1988’s Small Parts Isolated And Destroyed the band had refined the approach into a more structured whole - despite the music veering from thrash jazz to avant garde experimentalism. The 1991 album 0+2=1 crystallized their determinedly resistant approach.

NoMeansNo’s rejection of the media, particularly their refusal to have press photos taken, has thus far limited their accessibility, though their extensive cult popularity in Europe provides adequate compensation. Following a collaboration with Alternative Tentacles Records head Jello Biafra (The Sky Is Falling And I Want My Mommy), in late 1991 Andy Kerr, a veteran of the band for eight years, departed to form Hissanol (with NoMeansNo producer Scott Henderson). Many of the songs for Why Do They Call Me Mr. Happy? were written by Rob for his solo act, Mr Happy, a pseudonym that saw him toy with authoritarian images such as policeman, cleric and Mafia leader. Some of the songs, notably ‘The River’, were remorselessly bleak. The Wright brothers also recorded 1992’s quasi-comic Gross Misconduct as the Hanson Brothers.

NoMeansNo’s 1995 full-length The Worldhood Of The World (As Such) was their first album to be recorded as a quartet, with guitar, keyboards and an additional drummer (whom they refused to credit, even on the liner notes, as had been the case with the guitarist they added before Sex Mad, who was replaced on this album by someone known only as Tommy). Despite such disorientating tactics and a consistent refusal to engage with the media, they have continued to gain critical favour with further superb instalments of fluent guitar rock mated with incisive, sarcastic lyrics.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.