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Dirty Beaches - Badlands

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Artist: Dirty Beaches

Album: Badlands

Label: Zoo Music

Review date: Mar. 28, 2011


Dirty Beaches - "Sweet 17" (Badlands)


So, the í50s sucked, right? They sucked pretty hard as a decade, and weíre nostalgic about them solely because of the Greatest Generationís commitment to framing every piece of shit they ever laid as some sort of cherished momento of the way things used to be. The only reason anyone props up the í50s is that they still have living ancestors, and designs on what can be cannibalized from them once they die. Sure, letís remember the generation that lived to pollute in giant, wasteful automobiles that cemented our dependence on foreign oil, and those miracle plastics whose by-products poisoned our atmosphere and groundwater. Letís remember Pork Chop Hill. Letís remember the U.S. fucking up Iranís government and paving the way for the rigid, near-dictatorial state it is today. Letís remember segregation and George Wallace. Letís remember where we got our unhealthy eating habits and the proliferation of cheap, chemically-laced foodstuffs across our brand new supermarkets. Letís remember the Berlin Airlift. Letís remember the Cold War. Letís remember Joe McCarthy (seems like Gov. Scott Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers are doing just that). Letís remember Elvis. What a loser.

Or letís not. And part of that commitment to erasing our unfortunate past is to bury any memories of this goddamn Dirty Beaches record wherever they may surface. Alex Zhang Hungtai straps on a guitar (maybe) and croons like Alan Vega on top of asymmetrical, cloying samples of í50s and early í60s greaser pop crap. The songs canít go anywhere due to the length of the loops and the conceit of assembling them, so Huifang hisses over the "music" in this hiccuping, Fonzi-fied affectation that is one of the most blatant and unoriginal guises to come down yet in our lazy, near-sighted approximation of what we construe as challenging or worthwhile music in 2011.

On top of that, Badlands sounds like it was recorded over the phone to an answering machine. Canít you all listen to a Suicide record instead? Because at least there youíre getting the thrill of discovery of a new form, the sound of rock and roll turning inwards on itself, not this useless, endless Xerox copy of a copy that stands before you now.

I know of a band in my hometown of Pittsburgh called Raw Blow. Theyíre taking a similar approach to whatís on Badlands, except that thereís no attempt to obscure the personalities of the musicians that are making the music. Thatís because they have personality to spare; they also cover familiar territory (the Rallizes take on "I Will Follow Him" swapped out for the Rascals, or ? and the Mysterians), but thereís also very little attempt to obscure what theyíre doing; rather, they expand on those ideas into a timeless conceit, back it up with live instrumentation and concentrate on building a groove off of the sample, in effect enhancing it, shedding light on something that wasnít there. They donít take the low road like Dirty Beaches does, washing out all but the most notable elements of the sample with marine layer filth and hoping itíll be cool. Theyíre also probably a fraction as ambitious as anyone involved with pushing this clunker along, so youíll have to do some work to find them. I feel like I just did that work for you, so forget it. And forget Dirty Beaches too; put some Clearasil on it and pray that it goes down before the prom.

By Doug Mosurock

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