Dirt Dress

Perdido en la Suciedad, 2 EP

(Papermade; 2009)

By Chet Betz | 11 November 2009

So, Dirt Dress are releasing a tripartite series of EPs this year called Perdido en la Suciedad (“Lost in the Dirt”) and this is the second. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the excellent first one; between that and 2008’s NBHed Theme Songs I can say that it is imperative that you start listening to and enjoying the hell out of this band. Do it now because now is when the band is taking us, five songs at a time, along with them on the journey that is a completely awesome new indie rock band working out their identity. Start with those records, though; don’t start with this one. And—before anyone gets the wrong idea—this is a good EP. I mean, on Perdido en la Suciedad, 2 there are no fundamentally flawed deviations from course. I still love this band and have no doubt in the continued quality of their work. It’s just that this particular EP contains songs that I don’t love as much as the songs on their other EPs. If I had to pinpoint why, exactly (which I sort of do being the critic in this scenario), I think it’s because most of these tracks feel a little more like half-finished sketches—yeah, that’s part of the band’s charm, but their past songs at least had some shading to add depth and weight. Here we have more of a segue than a song in “Some Velvet Morning,” two other tracks that don’t crack three minutes, and the six minutes of “Conversation” are diced up by at least a minute of what sounds like a reprise of the goofy, “Untitled” experimenting from the first installment of the series.

I think this has something to do with Dirt Dress doing a little deconstructing of Dirt Dress, which is a good idea in terms of solidifying their philosophy and figuring out how exactly to move forward, but not the greatest thing for the songs themselves—this band’s great songs are great because they encompass a lot through a very minimal approach. So instead of everything being brought together in the intoxicating way it was on those two previous EPs, “Conversation” and “Stray Cats” have most of the band’s guttural riffing and lo-fi wankery, “Some Velvet Morning” has most of their obfuscation, “Sonic Death” has most of their surf guitar, and “Sonic Boom” has most of their melody. And a lion’s share of their sublimity, too.

Actually, “Sonic Boom” is perhaps the greatest departure to date for Dirt Dress from their established aesthetic. Which doesn’t mean a whole lot because it still sounds like Dirt Dress, which still sounds like this fantastic reduction of intense passion for music vs. jaded disaffection that makes up the classic indie rock of bands like the Velvet Underground, the Violent Femmes, and Pavement. This particular song sounds clean, though, the melody fore-fronted, the chorus quite content to repeat itself until, hey, it just turns out to be the rest of the song; BGVs and lead guitar enter later to push the song quite casually over the edge from cool to indelible. It’s a moment of clarity, perhaps, a stylistic echo of the song’s content since Noah insists, “It hit me like a sonic boom.” It’s a good one, for sure, and this EP’s highlight; however, compared to the propulsive flow and distanced largesse of past highlights like “Transmissions” and “Junk,” it sounds a tad quaint.

And that’s pretty much the final say as far as part deux of Perdido en la Suciedad goes. It’s really pretty good and there’s a lot of reasons to recommend it and it’s a worthwhile stop for a band on the road to self-discovery…but by somewhat fracturing the stuffs of which Dirt Dress is made the individual tracks end up, yeah, a tad quaint. That just makes me want to hear the third EP even more; in fact, it might not be until that point that I can even properly judge what’s present on this release. I look forward to the hindsight.

:: myspace.com/dirtdress