Monday, May 21, 2012

Dope Body - Natural History (Drag City, 2012)

Dope Body's discography, though consisting of only three full-lengths among splits with Child Bite and Orphan, outlines an evident growth. Their debut cassette Twenty Pound Brick captured the Baltimore trio using the rudiments of classic hardcore with an air of experimentalism. The band leaped at a handful of punk breeds, which felt like a product of discomfort more than it did desired variation. Last year's Nupping, by a graphic contrast, was of its own class, as discordant as noise rock yet grooved like funk, garnering one too many comparisons to Rage Against the Machine to have actually been applicable. Dope Body's palette has widened since then, expanding to a four-piece and signing to Drag City.

Natural History can be located somewhere between the sleaze of the Jesus Lizard and the studied precision of Battles. Titled after the space at which they performed their first show, the album traces how far Dope Body have come since their unrefined beginnings. Opener "Shook" slowly churns out viscid bass and swathes itself in feedback and dysfunctional guitar processing as Andrew Laumann unsteadily chants overhead about "living underground" and "going all the way"-- an unfamiliar onlooker could draw parallels to the slow-burning animosity of My War, but it only foretells the vigorous jaunt to ensue.

Bright leads and a classic rock chorus punctuate "Road Dog", the antithesis to its precursor. Laumann shouting "Do what you wanna do / see what you wanna see / go where you wanna go" is as liberating as the rhythm section's bouncy pulse and Zach Utz's melodically piquant accents. Leather jackets and crowbars equip the brutish and authoritative stride of "Beat", driven by monolithic frequencies and unevenly pitch-shifted leads. Apropos of the instrumental, the range and glut of noise is more assertive than the personality framed, for a lyric as stereotypically tough as "Aye you, talkin' to me?" only does so much to put forth any bite.

Utz has been the hub of Dope Body's outgoing arrangements and, paired with newly recruited bassist John Jones, summons an auricular superabundance that is altogether bright, savory, and pummeling. Fisher-Price squawks align with Utz's signature harmonics on "Powder", and Jones's croaking timbre upholsters the ascending refrain. The two gallop in tandem during the verses of "Weird Mirror" and scatter when frenetic leads are spotlighted. They even slow to a start-stop trudge on the closer "Lazy Slave", escalating in harmony. Their dynamic is no less remarkable than Dope Body's all-inclusive progress, which gleams with color on Natural History.

[Dope Body Website]
[Buy Natural History from Drag City]

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