Monday, March 30, 2009

Album Review: Double Dagger "More"

As in "Balti-."

I am learning to be suspicious- and rightly so- of bands' press releases. I'm not sure if there is simply a modality of writing and presenting them that persists from the old days of Payola and pin-striped hustle, some sort of stone tablet of Madison Avenue commandments. Whatever it is, I am always being burned by a deep discrepancy between what I am led to expect by slick bios and what I actually find in the music itself. I read a press release or a band's website and I am reminded of vinyl album liner notes. "Here's a band with a Fresh Sound, and the kids will soon be Freaking to the new Beat." There's a certain desire to please, a presentation of rock music, especially groundbreaking or psychedelic that needs to at least sound palatable in a verbal marketing-type sense to some gray-haired executive whose concept of avant-garde ended with Stravinsky. Pick up an LP with liner notes from back then, read deeply, and be embarassed.

There was an inevitable backlash, bands and albums that came in sub rosa with nothing at all to tell you about how to listen, what to expect, and there was almost a defiance in this. "No music here, move along!" The modern age has its electronic cognates to these, of course, but they're really no different. On the obfuscatory side, you have label websites with involved flash/RoR constructions that make you think you're reading some old book or are floating in a void. Or you have the effusive yet misleading band bio, whether in an emailed press kit or on a myspace page. We're back at the beginning, and here's where Double Dagger comes in.

Their album comes courtesy of Thrill Jockey records (who put out the excellent Extra Golden), and I think that TJ are less operators of guile than they are victims of tradition and enthusiasm. If you were to only go by the Double Dagger bio, which describes their wholesome recording adventures (almost straight out of some indie-rock Boxcar Children story) and displays a picture of them holding some synths, you'd believe them when they say that their music is 'loud pop.' Which would make them sound like all kinds of loud pop, probably twee, that comes out these days. I certainly was expecting that.

What I got however, was a great lofi hardcore album. Hardcore with no genre qualifiers, think Black Flag. The album, which apparently was recorded in a condemned building, and sounds it, is a testament to the power of the overdub, as without a guitarist their bassist's heavily distorted extra accents were really the things that were going to make or break these songs for me. What it comes down to is that this is a high energy raw album from a band that probably does thrive in a live setting as they claim. Look for them to bounce around and kick ass in your town. I'm really beginning to like everything that comes my way from Thrill Jockey- watch them.

One thing to note. As part of my ongoing growth as a mature proponent of critical theory, I wanted to share some of my reasoning in my review approach. Astute regular readers may notice that often I give what seems to be short shrift to the actual album I am reviewing. This is not necessarily so. I post reviews for albums that have made me think about important and worthwhile topics, and anyone can write about whether they did or did not like the new Golden Girls theme song remix album, and how frickin' brutal and metal it was- you don't need to read me to tell you that. The wonderful thing about the critical arts is that they are egalitarian. It doesn't require a vast education to appreciate the arts, only a willingness to broaden yourself in unexpected and unseen directions.

So bands, artists, labels, take heed: I do it how I do it to provide a little something extra, and I welcome any conversation or metacriticism that comes my way. Yee-haw!


Amber Dawn said...

i love that you use the word "obfuscatory".

Jess Gulbranson said...

If that word hadn't existed, I would have had to made it up. I hope I get a chance to use it in public someday.