Dusted Reviews

Dirty Beaches - Badlands

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Dirty Beaches

Album: Badlands

Label: Zoo Music

Review date: Mar. 28, 2011

So, the ’50s sucked, right? They sucked pretty hard as a decade, and we’re nostalgic about them solely because of the Greatest Generation’s 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 ’50s is that they still have living ancestors, and designs on what can be cannibalized from them once they die. Sure, let’s 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. Let’s remember Pork Chop Hill. Let’s remember the U.S. fucking up Iran’s government and paving the way for the rigid, near-dictatorial state it is today. Let’s remember segregation and George Wallace. Let’s remember where we got our unhealthy eating habits and the proliferation of cheap, chemically-laced foodstuffs across our brand new supermarkets. Let’s remember the Berlin Airlift. Let’s remember the Cold War. Let’s remember Joe McCarthy (seems like Gov. Scott Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers are doing just that). Let’s remember Elvis. What a loser.

Or let’s 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 ’50s and early ’60s greaser pop crap. The songs can’t 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. Can’t you all listen to a Suicide record instead? Because at least there you’re 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. They’re taking a similar approach to what’s on Badlands, except that there’s no attempt to obscure the personalities of the musicians that are making the music. That’s 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 there’s also very little attempt to obscure what they’re 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 wasn’t there. They don’t 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 it’ll be cool. They’re also probably a fraction as ambitious as anyone involved with pushing this clunker along, so you’ll 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

Read More

View all articles by Doug Mosurock

Find out more about Zoo Music

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.