Thursday, September 14, 2017

Album Review: Dirty Thrills - Heavy Living

Heavy rock evolved from the blues. Led Zeppelin is the most obvious bridge between the two, but there is no denying the origins of hard rock. That's something that has always confused me, because I am someone who likes hard rock, but has never been able to get into the blues at all. Emotional heaviness and sonic heaviness have never meshed in my mind, so I'm not sure what it is I'm missing.

Dirty Thrills are another band that is going back and tying a new line to the blues, tethering their roots tightly. Fronted by the son of an ex Moody Blues singer, I suppose it should be obvious what the band is about to deliver in terms of their own music. Their sound is heavy on the blues, and like their name suggests, dirty around the edges. I'm not sure if they thought lacking studio polish would make them sound more authentic, but there are definite drawbacks to that approach.

The first thing I took note of when listening to "Heavy Living" is that it simply doesn't sound good. It's engineered just fine, but the guitar tone is too fuzzy, to the point where you can't hear the attack on the strings. From the days of BB King's stabbing solos right through to today, real power in guitar playing comes from being clean enough that the way you play comes through. When you can hear the player wailing the notes with the passion of his playing, that's when guitar playing is at its best. Dirty Thrills has a guitar sound that has none of that. Like the picture on the cover of the album, it sounds like what a group of people sitting around half drunk would think sounds awesome, because they're too impaired to know any better.

But the worst thing about Dirty Thrills' music is that there isn't much to it. They write songs that seem to imply a few blues scales and a singer who can sing loud are all rock and roll need. That isn't true in the slightest. For being soaked in the blues, Dirty Thrills bring no emotional weight to these songs. There's no heartache, no desperation, nothing that makes you believe these songs are expressions of who these guys are and what they've been through. It sounds like music written to feel like the blues, which is an insult to what the blues ever was.

Are there redeeming features to Dirty Thrills? I'm sure there are, but when the big concepts are so flawed, the details almost don't matter. A clever lyric somewhere, or a drum fill that catches your attention, aren't enough to outweigh the fact that the record as a whole is a bland, sterile attempt to copy a sound that should mean something deep. "Heavy Living" shows no evidence any of the band members have done that very thing, and that's the worst thing about it.

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