Nothing More are a rock band from San Antonio, Texas that have released five albums, only three of which you can listen to on Apple Music. Their Wikipedia page skips right from History (2003) to Eleven Seven & Nothing More (2014-present), an eleven-year gap left completely unexplained. Their lead singer, Jonny Hawkins, is laughably handsome in a cliché rock n’ roll way, like he handed a photo of Jim Morrison to a plastic surgeon and said, “Gimme that, but buffer.” The critic Steven Hyden claimed their music sounds like “Gotye fronting Muse,” a description so accurate I can’t imagine topping it. It’s possible that if you’re reading this website, you’ve never heard them or heard of them — and yet Nothing More are, according to the Grammys, one of the best rock bands of the year, having scored a nomination in every rock category for this year’s awards.
Nothing More were the only band to score nominations in the fields of Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, and Best Rock Album — something more storied bands like Foo Fighters and Metallica couldn’t accomplish. They achieved this despite escaping the complete critical attention of publications like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, SPIN, Billboard, Consequence of Sound, Paste, Uproxx, and several others who typically cover rock music. They don’t have a Metacritic page; searching for reviews of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, their Grammy-nominated album, turns up hits from a few recognizable sites like Loudwire, AXS, and the Alternative Press, before immediately trailing off to more niche publications.
Critical attention doesn’t always translate to commercial sales, but Nothing More aren’t even especially popular: Their album peaked at #15 on the Billboard charts, and “Go to War,” the Grammy-nominated single, made no dent whatsoever on the Hot 100. They’re easily less visible than other nominees like Leonard Cohen and Chris Cornell, who have large followings sustained by long discographies. But as out of place as they seem mixed in with today’s enduring rock legends, they fit perfectly into the meat and potatoes rock band nomination slot that the Grammys seem eager to fill each year — bands that rock unironically, and seem not to care about the prevailing wisdom that the preening of traditional rock bands is out of date. They’re more Foo Fighters than The War on Drugs, and are ostensibly there to hold down a rock legacy untainted by the nebulousness of more “alternative” acts.
Even so, the differences between rock and alternative are at best pedantic. When the Best Alternative Album category was introduced in 1991 it was intended to cater to a time when the country’s best rock acts were finding audiences through college radio stations rather than the mainstream ones where acts like the Rolling Stones and Neil Young dominated. But over the years, many college rock bands have made the leap from the "alternative" to "rock" categories. Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, and Pearl Jam have all been nominated for or won Best Rock Album, while acts like Radiohead have toggled between the categories. Nothing More is a band built on guitar, bass, drums, and vocals — just like the National, who this year were slotted into the alternative categories. Is one less "rock" than the other just because the material more caters to people who live in Brooklyn?
Ironically, while the Grammys have shown an increasing ability to rate the merits of rap and pop albums — amazingly, and correctly, rap records comprise three of the five nominees of this year's Album of the Year category — the co-existing spheres of rock and alternative show they’re incapable of adjusting to the reality that guitar-based music, in general, has faded in popularity. The mainstream and the underground are flattened together like never before, and when theoretically more popular bands like the Foo Fighters are no longer selling millions of records, the distinction seems increasingly meaningless. If nothing else, Nothing More will get to call themselves Grammy-nominated artists. That’s great for their resume, and less so for viewers watching to find out what the year’s most notable records were — which is still what the Grammys are supposed to be, all evidence to the contrary.