“DD Review: The Dirty Nil – Minimum R&B.”

Score: 7.5/10


One of the most satisfying things in being a blogger is when I discover an obscure band, or else sift one out from the mind-boggling swathe of bands on facebook, and say put them on my year-end list, if I don’t get around to review them, only to find them soon opening up for an established act in rock. And so I bring you: The Garden supporting Mac Demarco this summer; and so I bring you: Beach Slang sharing a stage with the venerable Jimmy Eat World (which is especially a head trip being a band I grew up listening to in high school).
On one hand, The Dirty Nil, Canadian and way too punk (technically dubbed “alternative rock” on wikipedia) for the whole Father John Misty listening/vinyl-commissioning sector of indie, seemed locked in to such traction from the start. But then, I really think about it. I mean, I could do a review on this band’s new album COVER alone. And sure, I maybe could about The Garden’s The Life and Times of a Paperclip (whereas Haha was the album I put on year-end 2015 list), but that would devolve into like a discussion of what fast food restaurant they worked at (obvious Beavis & Butthead reference) and comparing the music to the jingles on those commercials. Look at this Dirty Nil guy doing this leg kick — how do you review Pete freakin’ Townshend? And what’s then with the Weezer-style ironic self-mockery in the title (apparently a reductive left-brain attempted witticism in light of the once sovereign punk mag Maximum Rocknroll). [1] Hey guys, you’re not already headlining sellout shows at Madison Square Garden, are you? Why didn’t you give me a ticket?
One thing’s for sure: this band’s got ELECTRIC ENERGY. Now, I say, they’ve got “electric energy,” for one thing, ‘cause to be the band they get da**ed LOUD. Loud enough to do a legit outdoor show? Eh, we’ll leave that to Primus for now. But they’ve got every bit the muscle of White Reaper, and the songs actually walk an edge, to boot. Overwhelmingly within the very first two songs you get the overwhelming sense of relationship angst, which, and this is an attack on Fiona Apple attackers, as well as, ironically, Fiona Apple backers, is in no way a bad thing in rock music. I mean, um, Uh Huh Her, [2] anyone?
By “Little Metal Baby Fist” it becomes clear that the band isn’t even trying to make a focused statement here, which you might have guessed from Minimum R&B’s release date following Higher Power’s by all of 14 months. I’m surprised they even had a chance to mix this album as well as they did (it almost qualifies as “overproduced” by punk standards), for how clear the vocals and how liquid-sounding the guitar is.
“Hate is a Stone,” though, commendably takes things down a notch from the roller-coaster groove we’d been getting which mind you was impressive on a technical level. We get the auxiliary lead singer on this song and it cracked me up because he kinda has that amateurish, half-a**ed style of the Meat Puppets’ Curt Kirkwood, or the guy from The Men. On “Cinnamon,” Luke Bentham comes back in and unfortunately, this song would be crappy even as a b-side for most bands. And what’s with the horrible chorus: “You can be pi**ed off if you want to”? This is with which they follow “Hate is a stone / Chained to me?” Que fu**in’ va, laddies?
You know what pi**es me off about bands these days? They don’t really have fun anymore. They might have a LITTLE fun, but he**, not like Pavement. And sure, you could point to the Smashing Pumpkins/Stone Temple Pilots name check in “Range Life,” but I’m just talking about putting a fu**in’ album together in a way that makes it seem like something more than robots making a bunch of noise. Some things you can’t chalk up to music theory (like, for instance, jazz).. but I mean PRODUCTION. Not mixing. Not recording. The artistic production of an album. Interludes. Laugh tracks after songs. The sense that this is an artistic, human process. It can be painful. That’s fine. Especially since it’s not me engaging in the process. Look at the laugh tracks after Stone Temple Pilots’ “MC5,” after Sleater-Kinney’s “Roller Coaster.” That’s what I’m talking about, and when singer Luke Bentham won’t shut up about “You can be pi**ed off if you want to,” I feel like telling him, if it pi**es you off that bad that people can be pi**ed off if they want to, then maybe you should reevaluate your examination of whether or not people can truly indeed be pi**ed off. Boy, it pi**es me off.
[1] It’s a chic punk thing I’ve noticed to still use the term “R&B” in the sense of meaning like early rock and roll, like Elwood Blues or somethin’ (for all I know the entire zeitgeist might be grounded cinematically in the first Blues Brothers movie).
[2] PJ Harvey’s bare, varied and show-stopping 2004 album.

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