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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Goff's Pick of the Week- Badlands by Dirty Beaches

Ever wish Suicide was still making music? Probably not, its been quite a while since the reign of what was probably the most abrasive band to ever grace, and inevitable be booed off, a stage. But even back in the sixties I don’t think anyone wanted a Suicide, but its more than fitting that we got them anyway. Somehow it was like the music gods had seen us fit to be punished, and Alan Vega and Martin Rev were our rack and iron maiden, dolling out punishment before a few Bruce Springsteen concerts or an Elvis Costello show. In retrospective we didn’t deserve them though, and it wasn’t because American music listeners were being unfairly punished. Fast forward fifty years, and what do you have, someone as unnerving as Suicide has crawled out into the light, and he is recording music under the moniker of Dirty Beaches. While I would say that the music that Dirty Beaches and Suicide make are similar, a sort of repetitive no-wave that is covered in slime, there is one distinct difference, Alex Zhang Hungtai, the Tiawenese-Canadian who is better known as Dirty Beaches, is cool, and Im talking switchblade sunglasses and a comb cool. Hungtai is like a deranged Fonzie, or rather a sane Fonz in a deranged world. I wouldn’t stop their either. In addition to the Fonz he has elements of Brain Wilson and Clint Eastwood in him as well, each with their own level of derangement. He travels over lanscapes spotted with neon lit Noir hotels with women in red nylons. He’s the guy that brings booze to the prom and then steals away your date. And where is he? Oh he is over by the jukebox. No kidding, Hungtai is got the aesthetic goods, the same type of aestetic that helped Suicide coin the phrase punk rock. Its not like he is a carbon copy either, he has got his own vibe that really really sets him apart from Suicide. Consider for a moment The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly a cowboy film based entirely off of a Japanese Samurai film entitled Yojimba. Even though both movies have some of the same themes, and basically have the same plots and style, they are completely different, and not once has anyone discredited The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly as being purely derivative. So Too with Suicide and Dirty Beaches.

And then there is the music, and here is a matter for debate. Did Hungtai record the music as poorly as he did to sound like the droning synth of Suicide? Did he mean to turn his live shows into performance art? Or does he really not care? It has to be one of those something this good could never be an accident. That would be like saying William Carlos Williams came up with This is Just to Say by accident. No, the intentions of the Dirty Beaches project is clear, to get under your skin and set up residency.  Hungtai becomes the living body of artist and art, a sort of character that has expanded well beyond himself and his music. Would the music be easier to listen too if it wasn’t hidden under drones of fuzz and wasn’t so damn repetitive? Absolutely, but its evident that The Dirty Beaches project is not for anyone’s enjoyment other than Hungtai’s yet despite all of the attempts that the music makes to push the listener away, there is some equal or greater force making you want to stay and hear what happens next.

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