Dope Body – Lifer

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Dope Body
Lifer
Drag City

Despite having that hipster vibe about them that would normally give me a few second thoughts about whether there is substance beneath the style, Baltimore’s Dope Body confounded that odd notion of mine by letting loose ‘Natural History’, an album that rode all the way into hell and back out the other side leaving behind rubber tracks, broken glass and the odd black eye. That’s generally how the record felt as it battered at one end of the scale and went for foot to the floor kaleidoscopic energy at the other. It was such a breathtaking mix that admittedly resulted, in my humble opinion, in the feeling that ‘Lifer’ wasn’t up to much, on first listen. Or at least it didn’t to me. I was perhaps hoping for a bit more of the seemingly hedonistic vibe that went on with ‘Natural History’, but that only made me more blinkered I suppose. I was finding the first half of the record a bit of a drag, lacking the desired punch, taking a bit long to get going, and the second half feeling better, but not up to the level I was expecting.

But I encouraged myself to give it a few more listens, and what resulted was pleasant discovery in that I actually do like this record. No, I actually love it, as much as anything they did before. What grabbed me before was some of the insane noises that Zachary Utz was able to strangle out of his guitar. There’s not really an element of surprise like that any more nor any vast experimentation, but once I removed those blinkers, I noticed there’s a definite progression in their sound. Although the quiet-loud dynamics of their sound remain, there’s a definite ear cupped towards melody – indeed Andrew Laumann’ is as much a proponent as anyone in the band for this – his vocal performance on ‘Rare Air’ and the closing ‘Even In The End’ is the construct that propels these tracks along, while the lead single ‘Repo Man’ showcases the band’s progression in those aforementioned dynamics through its almost stalking tension before the inevitable explosion of distortion.

Dope Body – Repo Man (official video)

Perhaps the biggest similarities to their previous work lies in the track ‘I’d Say To You’, the shortest track proper (bar the ‘Intro’ track), with a pulsing guitar-bass riff exploding into a memorable chorus, and the fantastically on-edge ‘Day By Day’. Otherwise there’s ‘Echo’, which creeps along like a panther stalking its prey astride a simple, slow, lounge-esque bassline, before going all savage in the chorus as it pounces into anarchy, and the excellent ‘Nu Sensation’, which rides across a jangling, galloping electric twang before Laumann goes all Marc Bolan-like towards the end.

Despite initially making me feel a weird double-take, Dope Body have quite brilliantly managed to progress their blueprint into slightly more mature boundaries, but without losing the primal edge that made them stand out to me a few years back. It would have been very easy just to go balls-out wild and free all over again but the proof in a good album is how much it opens up to you as you listen to it over and over. ‘Lifer‘ is an affirming testament to that, as cerebral as it is primal and as smart as it- is reckless.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Lifer’ here

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Dope Body – Saturday 7″

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Dope Body
Saturday 7″
Drag City

Last year saw Baltimore’s hybrid noise/punk/rock machine Dope Body emerge amidst a hail of smoke and luminance as they came into further consciousness following the thoroughly brilliant and diverse ‘Natural History’, which showcased dazzling guitar work, foot to the floor rock anthems with punk rock intensity and hip-swaggering joy. I caught a bit of them live when they toured the UK last October, and though I only saw three songs, it proved what a phenomenal act they are in the making.

Saturday’, a 7” single, is the first new material to emerge from the band since that album. The A side features ‘Leather Head’, a song they’ve been wheeling out live up to now; a brooding track riding a bass-driven pulse and a primal beat before jumping into a refrain of ‘could’ve been anybody/should’ve been nobody’. If this track was an animal, it’d be a panther, its slinky dark body stalking its prey in the shadows of the night, before racing out for a swift kill. Conversely, the B-side ‘Youth Relic’, is much like the Dope Body of ‘Natural History’, beginning a little like ‘Road Dog’ with a build-up on the hi-hat, crescendoing with more sonic fireworks from the supremely talented Zachary Utz.

Saturday’ drops on Monday 18 th March through Drag City, and this feral beast keeps on kerb-crawling through the night. I’ll be well pleased if this confirms a new album for this year, as right now I can’t tire of this band. This release might not be the joyous celebration that was ‘Natural History’, nor the skronk-punk days of old, but it’s a super fine morsel of meat to savour for now.

Peter Clegg

Dope Body – Youth Relic/Saturday promo
[vimeo 60007514]

Pre-order ‘Saturday’ 7” here

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Live Review: Dope Body @ Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 23/09/2012

w/ Blacklisters, Fawn Spots + Two Trick Horse

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It feels as though I’ve been the only one counting down the weeks and days to seeing Baltimore, Maryland’s Dope Body hit these shores, aside from the PR company who brought them to my attention. Their latest album ‘Natural History‘ is one of the standout albums of the year, but you’d be hard pressed to find it making waves in many other places apart from right here, and indeed the turnout for this gig is moderate at best. No one can blame the Brudenell Social Club, who are always bringing over scores of alternative acts and putting on some of the best shows in the city of Leeds. They haven’t won a bunch of awards for nothing. Still, I feel like Dope Body are a sleeper band of sorts, waiting for the day the wider press wakes them up. I suspect that they don’t care for popularity – tell me guys if I’m wrong – but in a weird way it feels like some sort of dark secret waiting to be revealed.

Me and my brother-in-law arrive around halfway through Two Trick Horse‘s set, swigging our beer as they crank out one crunching riff after another. The noise trio don’t manage to get many people off the comfy seats at the front of the venue, but it turns out to be a bit of a shame, as they juxtapose between riffs excellently, angling through songs as much as their flexible bassist, who could probably trump anyone in a limbo contest. Still, they become my new discovery of the day, and it’s to be hoped they can be a bigger part in this new wave of noise rock bands that seem to be emerging.

By contrast, York trio Fawn Spots seem a little more awkward, initially overcoming one or two technical glitches to ramble through a set that’s at times part upbeat indie rock and part post-hardcore without the rage. Not my cup of tea but there’s definitely room for these guys to develop their potential, depending on which side of the fence they fall upon.

I really, really want to like Blacklisters, I really do. Their unhinged racket makes for some of the best heavy music Leeds has to offer, but tonight they’re on home turf and that ends up with the singer basically dicking around between songs too much. He says they wouldn’t play ‘Trickfuck’ because ‘everything knows how it goes, everyone goes mental…‘ etc. I suspect really its cos they overran their set. When they do crank out songs like ‘Mouthpiece’ and new track ‘The Bully’ they are truly a force, their vocalist being suitably imposing and sneery, but the constant banter ruins any attempt at continuity, which is what you’d want if you want a band like this to cave your head in. Maybe next time, in a venue they can’t quite call home.

Still, all these events conspire so that by the time tonight’s headliners hit the floor, I’m already thinking about that last train home. There’s time to bear witness to two of ‘Natural History‘s finest cuts: a cracking opening salvo of ‘Weird Mirror’, starting with its bleeps and bloops before taking us on a kaliedoscopic rock journey; and ‘Road Dog’. Vocalist Andrew Laumann appearing like the bastard lovechild of Iggy Pop and Alex Zane, seemingly feeling every convulsion that rumbles through the floor, twisting like a python and going fucking mental when required, i.e. at all times. Zachary Utz is also a dab hand at guitar, firing off a seering, joyous solo during ‘Road Dog’. Alas, we can’t really continue the experience beyond the third song (a number I’m honest enough to say I couldn’t identify), and leave as the opening, brooding strains of ‘Out of my Mind’ enter the fray.

It was a decent turnout if disappointing nowhere near a sellout. Fair enough, the Brudenell isn’t the easiest place to get to on a Tuesday night, but I’m still scratching my head at why the wider UK rock press haven’t picked up on Dope Body yet. Are they too hipster, or something? Sure, they don’t all dress like the hardest rocking band, but why should that matter? Their appeal stretches wider than the confines of their current popularity. I’m sure if they can keep producing records like ‘Natural History‘ the penny will drop for us here in the UK. Irrespective of that, hopefully Dope Body’s return to these will be more well received next time. If they can party out like that all night, I’m pretty sure we owe it to them to do the same.

Peter Clegg

TWO TRICK HORSE

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FAWN SPOTS

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BLACKLISTERS

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DOPE BODY

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