First post! First album review! This is gonna be awkward like a first kiss, but a lot more wordy. The Dudes are from Calgary, and they’ve been around for awhile, but I’ve been hearing them on the radio in Vancouver recently, and I should hope they are also getting played all over the country. Any airplay they get is well deserved. I liked their previous album, Brain Heart Guitar, but I felt it was a little weak in the second half, and I thought this band had much more to offer. I tend to be a sucker for bands that have a very distinct sound, yet still manage to make songs and albums that sound significantly different from one another, so that I don’t get bored of the sound. Most bands seem to have a difficult time doing this for more than two or three albums, and as this is the Dudes second album* we’ll see if they can keep up the good work after this one (*widely released at least, and I haven’t heard This Guy’s the Limit or the Bee Puncher EP, so they have had no effect on my boredom or lack of it as it relates to this band). It is Dan Vacon’s voice that seems to anchor the Dudes’ sound. I think he would sound unique no matter how he placed his words, but he also has his own way of phrasing lines that is interesting, musical, clever and somehow very human.
The Dudes – Blood Guts Bruises Cuts
Track 1 – Honest Mistake
I heard an acoustic version of this song a year ago while the Dudes were writing this album, and I was mildly disappointed. It really seemed to lack the punch and gusto I had come to love and expect from this band. I don’t know if it is the addition of drums or the switch to electric guitars, or just how the song developed in recording, but I like this version much better. Right off the bat it sounds like the gritty sound of the previous album is still there, while Bob Quaschnick adds some clean guitar with dotted eighth note delays for some fresh sparkle.
Favorite seconds: 1:34-1:35 “Not, my, fault!” there are many talked lines on this album, and I will probably gush about all of them, because they are all awesome. Although, I generally find any talked vocals awesome. But I generally don’t like Rap, Spoken Word, or that weird Baz Luhrmann song about wearing sunscreen. Go figure.
Track 2 – Girl Police
I love how clever and humorous Dan’s Lyrics are, without being too campy (like Mika) or ridiculous (like Tenacious D). I wish I could put words together that well. Listen closely to all the lyrics, or google them if lyrics tend to escape you. I really liked the Cheap Trick-ish guitars in the first half of the chorus, and the barbershop backup vocals in the second half. I don’t think there are many bands that can pull off style changes mid-song, especially in the stuttery fashion that seems to be all over this album, but I think the Dudes do it well. I don’t know if they do it as well as the Matches on Decomposer, but they certainly pull it off.
Favorite seconds: 1:22-1:39
“They want to hole us up in their lockdown, a year for every precious heart we knocked down, less a day for every night we rocked out, oh thank god we always rocked out.” Haha, more talking, and clever lyrics, I sense a trend.
Track 3 – Ghosts We’re Buried On
I read in an interview that this was a song that was written about Vacon’s Grandfather, and that it was his favorite song he had ever written. I certainly think it is one of his best. I don’t know why, but I really like the songs I write that come from tough emotional times too, there just always seems to be a little something extra that makes it sound better, like I could have used the same chords and the same melody and written it about something else, and it would have sucked. I wonder what exactly he means by “the ghosts that we’re buried on”? I presumed the ghosts are our ancestors, but in what way are we buried on them? If I actually get anyone to read this, I encourage you to share your thoughts on this lyric. Also, I read another review of this album that described this song as being Sublime-ish, and I don’t see the similarities, I get more of a Big Band vibe, but I would be interested to hear what other people have to say.
Favorite seconds: 0:30-0:44 both guitars and the bass seem to be playing things unrelated to each other, but they somehow sound really cool if you listen to it all together. Also the demonstration of how Grandad played guitar, and the vocal affirmation of it were nice touches.
Track 4 – Pretty Lies
When I first heard this song it was on my alarm clock radio one morning this summer, and while the voice told me it was the Dudes, I was surprised at the dirty heshin’ rock style, with little to no indie modesty. It’s like a really good Trews song, but with less polish and way better songwriting. (apologies if you are a Trews fan, there is just something about their songs that irritates me personally, not because they are bad, but because they could easily be so much better, if I could just point out to them what their weak points are. Maybe they should just talk to the Dudes instead)
Favorite seconds: 0:26 – 0:31 “My heart is pulsing and bloody, she beats for nobody specifically” I always get this bit stuck in my head, but the second half has this wonky timing, and I can never get it right, so it gets stuck even worse, but I still love it. Also, what is with the line “say that I’m needed, like the landlord on the 30th, I don’t believe you” which line goes with which? Is the landlord needed on the 30th, or is he as skeptical as a landlord would be on the 30th? Discuss.
Track 5 – Terrified
This song sounds too much like the previous album to me. And it sounds like one of the songs I would have passed over on the previous album as well. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t grab me. I did like how the gang vocals were compiled from fan recordings sent in via the internet, a good way to get fans involved who might normally not get a chance to be on a record.
Track 6 – Mr. Someone Else
I think this is one of my three favorite songs on this album. A fresh take on the girl envy song (see Jessie’s Girl, I Want Your Girlfriend to be my Girlfriend Too). I like the way the chorus lyrics are a little different each time, and equally slick every time.
Favorite seconds: 1:55 – 2:01 “Don’t think it’s indestructible, cus love can die, I’ve seen it die, and born again like 50 times man.” I think the addition of the “man” at the end is my favorite part of my favorite part.
Track 7 – Turning All Red
See Track 5
Track 8 – Small Mercies
This is a cool track, and the chorus gets stuck in my head all the time. It kind of surprised me after all the rock, but I think it really strengthens the album, whereas I felt like the slower numbers on Brain Heart Guitar just bogged things down. I like the bit of the rhythm track that sounds like a bitcrushed shaker or something. That one sound almost makes the track sound a little electronic, even though it doesn’t really have that programmed sound.
Favorite seconds: 1:27-1:50 Cut everything, cue folky acoustic guitars, a little harmonica, bring the shaker in….now, annnnnnd full band back in. yes
Track 9 – Connected
This may not be the strongest song on the LP, but I think it sums up what the Dudes make me feel. I may not feel connected to the same things the lyrics refer to, but all the songs on this album make me feel like I’m part of a music community, a neighborhood, a city, or the human race. The instrumental chorus sort of thing is cool, reminds me of Feel the Pain by Dinosaur Jr. I’m looking forward to seeing this live, I’m gonna dance like this: sway, sway, head bob, sway, sway, head bob, sway, fist pump, kick it, head bob, kick it, head bob with extra enthusiasm on the stops, sway kicks.
Track 10 – Ever Been to Taiwan?
Haha, Taiwan on, tie one on, get it? “But the PA’s fine, we turn it up louder” Good gang vocals, I think I’ll like this one way better live. I think I have seen the band that he’s talking about with the frontman who dresses like Stephen Tyler. It was at the Palomino, and I feel like it was either when I played a random one-off show with the Tetraktys, or a Lions and Tigers and Bears Show, but both of those don’t seem to fit properly with the rest of the memory.
Favorite Seconds: 2:37-3:20 the slow-down
Track 11 – Had Enough of It
I can’t quite decide if I like how the start of those song really sticks out from the rest of the album (except for Small Mercies maybe), but I do know I really like it on its own. I also know I really don’t like the transition from the electronicky bit to the old time bit that kicks in at 2:20, I think it sounds sloppy, amateur and out of place. I think maybe the song would have benefitted to sticking closer to the style of the first minute and a half. Maybe that would have made it stick out even more from the rest of the album, which may or may not be a good thing. Discuss.
Favorite seconds: 0:01-1:34
Track 12 – Not S’pose to Call
This is my favorite song on the album. I saw them play this live at Sled Island last year, and I was disappointed by what I thought was the chorus, until the chorus kicked in, and it turned out I really liked how they took it down a notch just before busting out on the chorus. Love, love LOVE the stops in the chorus. Love the volume swell on the reverby backups. I hope the kids will understand what quarters would be used for other than the laundromat, although last time I checked, it was a quarter and a dime. Yes, more talk-singing! “And my friends say…”
Favorite seconds: 1:04-1:10 and again at 2:19-2:25
Track 13 – Find Out
See Tracks 5 and 7. Sluggish.
Track 14 – Bonus
I like short, simple bonus songs like this that finish an album, rather than full live songs or b-sides as bonuses that start when everything should be concluding. For example, Metric’s new album, Fantasies came with a bonus song called Waves at the end that kinda messed up the flow of the album, felt like things were starting up again. Another cool short ending song is Proctor Rd. by the Matches at the end of A Band in Hope, although it might be even better as an intro song.
Well that was not like a first kiss in any way. More like an unsuccessful first attempt at having sex. Maybe if I keep writing, one day I will learn how to pleasure the lady that is your mind, and maybe if I’m lucky I’ll even feel a little more satisfied.
The guitar sounds on this album are bigger and thicker than those on Brain Heart Guitar, suggesting Dan leaned more heavily on his ES-335 for this recording than the Jazzmaster that I believe was used previously. I liked how the Dudes used this big sound, some bands get lost in it, and end up with a song that rocks and has a decent hook, but doesn’t go anywhere or say anything. When the songs did slow down or quiet down, they still had feeling and momentum, and this resulted in Blood Guts Bruises Cuts being a stronger album, with more depth than Brain Heart Guitar. I look forward to seeing the Dudes live again, and hearing what they will do with their next album.
In hindsight, most of my comments refer to guitar sounds, andDan Vacon’s songwriting. I write songs and play guitar, so I suppose that’s what I am going to notice, although I’ll make an effort to listen for standout performances by other intstruments in future reviews. I tried to keep the technical stuff somewhat limited, especially because I probably don’t know what the hell I am talking about half the time anyway, but I am still deciding if I will be writing this blog as if you are as much of a music dork as me, or if I want to be objective and generally informative, include personal thoughts or not, go into excessive detail or be concise etc. Who am I writing this blog for anyway? Discuss.