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Dope Body - Nupping

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Artist: Dope Body

Album: Nupping

Label: Hoss

Review date: Jul. 28, 2011

Moore’s Law may have started out talking about transistors, but at this point it’s applicable to almost every region of cultural development. In the case of Dope Body, it applies specifically to the rate of rehash. We’re barely into the twenty-teens and already these Baltimoreans are digging up the rusty juggernauts of the new millennium’s first decade.

You might not want to stop there, instead looking past to the noisy MTV stars of the 1990s that pushed ugly sounds and ugly politics out of the underground and into the frat house. You wouldn’t be wrong for wanting to do that; the band themselves self-identify as Rage Against the Machine-ists. It is, however, somewhat disingenuous to use Morello & Co. as square one. That first wave is filtered through the nascent years of the underground-going-online from the mid-2000s, and so approached as a secondary instead of a primary document.

To get even more specific, I would put forward 2004 as the catalyst for Nupping. It’s the year that Lightning Bolt’s Wonderful Rainbow, Death From Above 1979’s You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, and Hella’s The Devil Isn’t Red blew out of the underground, onto the college radio charts, and into the collective indie-Internet consciousness. Seven years might not seem like enough distance for a revival, but the turnover rate has accelerated so quickly, and the desire to comb through sub-genres for some shard of relevance is so strong, that the gestation period for the next wave is still approaching zero.

In that sense, the time is now, or any time really, for Dope Body to churn out what they themselves dub “The Shape of Grunge to Come” two songs into Nupping. Cute sentiment, but it’s all posturing. There’s only the threat of a threat of violence here, even at the band’s hardest. “Enemy Outta Me” crunches its way through a junkyard of discarded song parts before arriving at a full-on blitz that is beautifully orchestrated to incite a riot. In theory, at least. The sound has been smoothed out, market tested, and ultimately defanged. In 2004, a couple bands worked hard to make people like this. In 2011, it’s not a stretch anymore.

Even at the group’s most extreme on “Force Field,” Dope Body feels like a pop band gone rogue. Andrew Laumann’s monotonous shouting is kept just far enough away so it’s not too in your face. Zach Utz goes for broke on the metal riffs, but there’s still a sing-along quality. David Jacober’s drumming comes closest, but even he slips into flat-out silliness when trying to bring the funk.

The urge to call this a punk rock record is strong. That’s because it is most definitely an ugly record. But that ugliness is cold, calculated and superficial. In the end, they don’t have what it takes to fully commit to the fringe, to cross over into the reprobate territory patrolled by the likes of Pissed Jeans, Sex Vid and the Youth Attack! Crew. And why should they, really? The public is ready for this comeback: Zach Hill is everywhere, Death From Above 1979 are hitting the festival circuit, and Lightning Bolt is collaborating with the Flaming Lips as we speak. We asked for this, and Dope Body is merely obliging to play off a latent masochism and willful ignorance of the not-so-distant past. So while Nupping might not quite be the greatest rock ‘n roll swindle ever, it certainly makes a case for the need for con men.

By Evan Hanlon

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