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Soiled Doves - Soiled Life

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Artist: Soiled Doves

Album: Soiled Life

Label: GSL

Review date: Jan. 21, 2004

Soiled Life is the product of barely requited love, where the four members of Soiled Doves found themselves doing what they were meant to be – and doing it well – yet stifled by their own auxiliary successes. The eight songs represent a compendium of the group’s output, which was (both group and output) stifled by the members’ other commitments, namely vocalist Johnny Whitney’s card-carrying allegiance with mainstreamers-in-training, the Blood Brothers. Behind his falsetto, the band is helmed by bassist Adam Miller and the original line-up of his not-side-project, the imaginative Chromatics. Drummer Hannah Blilie and guitarist Devin Welch, now members of Seattle’s Shoplifting, fill out both rosters (Soiled Doves and Chromatics). Moving ahead a year on the confusing family tree/timeline, after the dissolution of the original Chromatics lineup and the release of the group’s nice and screechy opus Chrome Ratz vs. Basement Rutz (on GSL), Miller dropped the vowels and some consonants from his bands name, touring as KRMTX. His actions showed commitment and defiance, and much of that is seen/heard on Soiled Life. The album was written and recorded in 2001, when, after a single west coast tour and less than a year together, the group called it quits.

That said, Soiled Doves benefit most from the Miller’s expectedly moody score, with guitar and drums following his tenacious lead. Welch piles riffs upon riffs on “Death Knell for Paper Children,” where the guitars’ metallic treble brightens Whitney’s dark lyrics: “Paper child, child of paper / crucified to a glass skyscraper.” The diversity of sounds push the record forward, particularly Miller’s more-sultry moments, when near-cabaret melodies slide out between atonal slashes. With Whitney sounding predictable behind obtuse lyrics and his love-it-or-hate-it death yelp, Soiled Doves is ultimately another merit badge on Miller’s thrift-store Girl Scout vest.

Miller slides through a veritable R&B back catalogues-worth of bass lines, and stars on the album’s droned-out title track finale, three times longer than most cuts at over six minutes, but nonetheless stunning and anesthetic. The album opener, “Black Cactus Choir,” becomes a cowboy chase sequence through a disco-era western and Blilie’s impeccably recorded bass-drum-to-snare backbeat is to thank. And, truthfully, there is no reason to be too hard on Whitney, because ultimately he delivers with all the squawk-core vitality he can muster. Soiled Life is as close as Whitney gets to melodic, although the track “Hot Siberian Heart” finds a mock-hardcore (read: Blood Brothers) highlight in the simply screamed chorus of the word “Yeah.”

Soiled Doves are more than indulgence, despite the sort-of-circumstantial brevity of their career. Curiously mature and hi-fi, Soiled Life is framed with a clarity that spelunks a bit deeper into the cavern of talent mapped by the Chromatics’ Chrome Ratz vs. Basement Rutz.

By A.A. Davidson

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