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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New Bums – Voices in a Rented Room

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New Bums
Voices in a Rented Room
Drag City

What’s this, I hear you say? An acoustic review on We Must Obey? Preposterous! In actual fact, when I started up We Must Obey I promised a few swerveballs to our usual metal, hardcore, sludge, grind, doom etc. coverage. These have largely been in the vein of pop-punk bands like Bowling For Soup and even video game metal – largely thanks to the brilliant Metroid Metal. I can’t recall ever dedicating time exclusively to an acoustic album – browse through the archives and see if you can find one if you wish – but in any event, I decided to take a punt when the PR machine landed this in my inbox.
 
New Bums are a duo consisting of Ben Chasny (of Six Organs) and Donovan Quinn (of Skygreen Leopards, Comets on Fire and more). Their alliance was allegedly a grudging one initially, but like Alexandr Zubkov and Alexey Ivanovich Voyevoda, the Russian bobsledding team who won gold despite apparently hating one another and not talking to one another prior to victory, New Bums prove to be an intriguing combination, if not quite worthy of a gold medal like the Russian sliders. ‘Voices in a Rented Room’ is the pair’s debut full-length, culled from five years together, following a career forged in ‘freak folk’ and its aftermath. It proves to be an moderately satisfactory if not wholly essential collection of songs drenched in the haze of folky America, the lonely motel room referred to in the album title every bit evocative in the introductory ‘Black Bough’ a forlorn but catchy track with slightly haunting overtones. They do stand out when there’s a bit of attitude to their sound; the cautionary ‘Pigeon Town’ proclaims that ‘you’ll only get fucked’ there. The single ‘The Killers and Me’ is awesome, a ghostly throwback to dark American country; while ‘Your BS’ is backed by the only percussion on the album, throwing in an electric lead amidst a chunky and satisfying lead riff.

I’m not going to judge on how effective the combination of Chasny and Quinn works when they’re both singing together – I’ve seen other critics pick up on that but when one of the last records you reviewed consisted of gory tech-death metal tunes, such intricacies are slightly lost on me, to be perfectly honest. There’s a few occasions where the sound gets a little distorted, like there’s a bit too much going on, and not every track truly does it for me – the more memorable tracks tend to be the catchier ones, such as the aforementioned tracks, plus ‘It’s The Way’ and ‘Mother’s Favorite Hated Son’. Don’t expect reinvention of the wheel here, but open up to New Bums’ run down motel jams and you might find enjoyment here.

Peter Clegg

New Bums – The Killers and Me (official video)

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV4bAreF5TY]

Buy ‘Voices in a Rented Room’ 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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