Massachusetts-born rapper and singer Joe Mulherin (professionally known as nothing,nowhere.) opens a new chapter with Trauma Factory, his fourth studio album and second for Fueled by Ramen. This 15-song long outpouring of emotion is his deepest emotional venture to date. Battling ideas of pain, anxiety and heartbreak, Trauma Factory digs deep into the psyche of Mulherin. Opening with its title track, 1:35 of heartbreaking spoken word, the unknown voice concludes with stating, “human life is a trauma factory“, a theme which sums up the entire output before we even begin.
The sad tone of the intro gives way to ‘lights (4444)’, which in all honesty is one of the more easily skipped tracks on the album; a surprising choice for the first taste of the project, but nevertheless a nod to nothing,nowhere.‘s origins of his Soundcloud days back in 2015. ‘buck’ has more of a pop-punk edge, similar to the likes of Machine Gun Kelly, teasing his proficiency to be backed by a full band. When the album leans this way I find myself a little more intrigued by what’s on offer. ‘upside down’ boasts twinkling guitar riffs and more rhythmic drumbeats which pick up the pace, whilst still being accompanied by a slightly downtrodden, heartbroken lyrical offering following an apparent breakup.
‘fake friend’ is probably the first song which really made me sit up in my seat; it is the perfect single release; It’s got more edge, and Mulherin’s song arrangement really suits this nod to a more hard-rock styling. If ‘fake friend’ caught my attention, ‘death’ absolutely continued to hold it in its grasp. The track exhibits a much heavier timbre which isn’t really present in any of the other tracks on Trauma Factory. The horror rock breakdown in the latter half of the song made me think I’d accidentally skipped to another artist, this song is a true masterclass on mixing up what your overall sound can be, and I truly want to hear much more of this facet of his identity in future releases.
The biggest collaborative track ‘blood’ features rapper KennyHoopla & producer JUDGE, and frankly, it is an absolute tune; another well-picked single release for the album. KennyHoopla‘s verse feature melds well with Mulherin’s vision for this track. ‘nightmare‘ exhibits a perfect blend of shimmering synths, before diving back into the rockier vibe I’ve found myself looking for him to return to consistently.
The ballad-like ‘crave’ sees him crawl into a sadder territory, which continues still with ‘real’, an ode to a fan interaction which clearly had an intense impact on his outlook. It’s pleasant to hear yet another side to his musical personality with these deeper, meaningful laments. Album closer ‘barely breathing’ rounds things off perfectly, as it’s a balancing act between the vibes of earlier, more raucous tracks & darker undertones of the album’s latter half. The second half of this track could again be mistaken for not even being his song – it’s that different.
Trauma Factory is like a snapshot analysis of the trials and tribulations of young life. Being a straight-edge vegan, nothing,nowhere. is already an outlier to many of his peers in the rap and rock scenes, but not only this fact makes him unique; he’s managed to channel several different musical influences into one album. Sometimes it’s seamless, sometimes slightly jarring, but on a whole, it’s an impressive feat. Whilst Trauma Factory at times feels overly metaphorical and symbolic, at the heart of it is simply an examination of life in all its forms, be it euphoric or devastating.