Saturday, 17 March 2012

Dirty Beaches - Badlands (2011)

When I first read about this album, there were three phrases that were used in virtually every article; Lo-fi, David Lynch and post-rockabilly. As you can imagine, It was immediately downloaded and entered heavy rotation.

As for those articles, this is what I thought after a few spins;

First up, the album is definately a lo-fi affair - so much so that I initially thought i'd downloaded some shitty web rip of the actual album. Not so, the whole thing is drenched in a haze of compression. After the first few plays I started to ignore the technical shortcomings and focus on the music. That said, I can imagine this bare bones approach will put some folks off altogether.

Secondly, the David Lynch thing is certainly there. I can imagine all of these songs accompanying some crazy, Lynchian visuals. I'd probably mention Jim Jarmusch as well as Lynch.

Finally, the rockabilly influence. Well, the album itself whilst short (only 27 minutes!) divides up into three distinct phases. The first four songs undeniably draw on some 50's influences from the locked groove guitar twangs on Speedway, to the repetitive Krautrock rhythms and Alan-Vega-meets-young-Presley yowl. Then comes the album's twin highlights; 'True Blue' snags its death prom ballad groove from The Ronettes’ 'Keep On Dancing' whilst Alex Zhang Huntai drapes some Beach Boys surf licks and Roy Orbison-esque vocals on top. 'Lord Knows Best' owes its mesmeric piano melody to Fran├žoise Hardy’s Voila and the deep-voiced mumble Huntai sighs along is a pretty clear reference to her collaborator and fellow countryman Serge Gainsbourg. the last two tracks are instrumentals and are pure spectral, night-drive noir.

The only problems I have with this otherwise stellar album are it's brevity and the fact that I can't help but wonder what these songs would have sounded like with a bit of sonic spit and polish.

Huge recommendation.

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