The term ‘punk’ is more loosely defined than ever. Once a defiant statement of rebellion, its label has been applied to some many undeserving things that the lines of what is punk and isn’t punk are more blurred than ever before. Evolution is a welcome thing but the watering down of punk’s description certainly hasn’t been. These days, unless you really sound and look the part and chime in with an acidic bark and a sheer defiance of authority, the next best attributable thing is probably to acts which exudes a hint of apathy and a smattering of could-care-less what you think attitude blended with a penchant for excess. That’s perhaps how I could at least best sum up Baltimore‘s Dope Body, a quartet whose ‘Natural History‘ is perhaps one of the finest dangerous, reckless and indeed careless statements of arguable punk today.
What is noticeable straight away is Dope Body likes to mix things up. ‘Shook’ opens this album and is effectively their arising from slumber, really coming across with a Melvins and assorted slow punk vibe. The following track ‘Road Dog’ is a more straightforward rocker, with a fantastic pre-chorus chant of ‘do what you wanna do/see what you wanna se/go where you wanna go‘ before launching into a more passionate refrain. It’s hard to pick out what I like most about the album, with the fantastic tinkling riff of ‘Twice the Life’, the slow, brooding intent of ‘Out of my Mind’, the easy riding wit of ‘High Way‘ with the line of ‘I’m not hopelessly looking/I’m not hopeless but I’m not looking!‘ all proving to be addictive highlights. If its any justice as well, ‘Weird Mirror’ will be one of the feelgood hits of the summer, even if it were only for its ‘woah-oh’s and careening pace.
I’ve been listening to this record a lot over the last week or so and that I’m still enjoying it and still not tired of it speaks a lot for its quality. This was my first exposure to Dope Body and the results could not have been more stunning. I’m aware their songs were much more punchy and brief in their early days but they’ve evolved into a howling vortex of jarring noise and punk rock energy. It might all be effects and technical wizardry, but guitarist Zachary Utz seems to be able to contort and conjour all manner of noises from his guitar – I could’ve sworn ‘Twice the Life’s twinkling riff was a steel drum at first. The heady brew of sonic sounds is complimented by vocalist Andrew Laumann’s assorted yelps, howls and reverberations and makes for perhaps one of the most exciting bands of our time. Its punk rock thrown in the blender with the Jesus Lizard, Lightning Bolt and other assorted supplements, as if to celebrate your stupor. At the same time, it’s perfectly accessible, losing none of its quality for it either.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say its wholly original, but this experimental approach has certainly paid dividends and I don’t expect it will be too long (or so I hope) before Dope Body break out of the USA and over to Europe and beyond. ‘Natural History‘ is going to be an absolutely compulsory purchase when it drops, as high a compliment as I really give around here. Do it.