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- Badlands by Dirty Beaches
I had this down as indie-pop but in my advancing years I may be thinking of something else...Beach Fossils, or The Beach Boys maybe. Instead this is lo-fi scuddy rock that sounds exactly like a Suicide that have dropped their steam-driven synths and picked up electric guitars. The opener 'Speedway King' is a bloody brilliant terrifying blast of panicky claustrophobia. So good in fact that they attempt to repeat the trick on the rest of the album with less memorable results. You know that thing Suicide had where they sound like a post-breakdown Elvis Presley who has discovered punk rock? Well they have that in spades. They have also picked up the kind of late night paranoia that dogged Bruce Springsteen on the eerier parts of his 'Nebraska' album. What they don't have though is a single idea of their own except for the one that is lets re-create Suicide's back catalogue using the cheapest most shitty sounding equipment known to man. A good idea, I'll admit, but it gets a bit wearing across a whole album.
6/10 Jack Kennedy Customer review, 9th July 2014
An element in music that interests me is where musicians’ worm into the mind sets of others, to write and create from a different perspective. Alex Zhang Hungtai (Dirty Beaches) described preparing to write this record as needing a lot of research due to its far removed themes, creating a lone wolf character in exile, sharing its name and general themes with the 1973 Terrence Malick movie.
2011’s ‘Badlands’ initial manic sound suits the mood that it’s trying to impose, taking major queues from rockabilly and the obvious worship of the seminal act - Suicide, right up to the breathy, mangled vocals and seemingly endless throbbing rhythms. Something that occurs to me is that the record is so in debt to its aesthetic that it can often fall prey to tracks becoming aimless due to a lack of direction. On ‘Sweet 17’ and ‘Horses’ it adheres to the album’s regime, repeating motives seen throughout the record, it really bleeds out these claustrophobic, greaser vibes; it can become a tiresome affair.
However there are glimpses of hope in the form of ‘True Blue’ and ‘Lord Knows Best’ where his inspiration comes to the forefront in a more striking manner due to the sighing croon and brilliant pop nous projected. With these two tunes, the record begins to gain a momentum, rising from a slump of grating repetition. However the momentum comes to an immediate halt when we are faced with a duo of lame anti-climactic instrumental pieces. Whilst the album bears great influences, and is guided by a fascinating ideology, it generally lacks the focus and vision to make it an accomplished work.
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