You’ve got bands that stick to their guns like there is no tomorrow. And they will always rehash what was before until their days run out. Comfort in sounds and numbers, right? And truly, for some it pays off. They fill stadiums with fans wanting nothing more than to listen to the same shit all over again. Mind you, these bands are good at what they do and a lot of fans like precisely that level of comfort.
Then you have others with a distinct taste for risk and change, the ones opening doors that were closed before. Darting off to take yonder foggy pathways that nobody knows where they will lead.
One of these bands is the Swiss outfit Dirty Sound Magnet. They just disgorged their newest full length Western Lies onto the unsuspecting public. In the past the band boasted this ’70s to early ’80s rock style with a lot of Zep and Southern Comfort in it. And produced two stellar albums with What Lies Behind and The Bloop in precisely that order.
Now, after the departure of Didier Coenegracht the band found itself somewhat in uncharted territory. To my surprise, they did not just grab another lead singer with the same type of astonishing pipes. But – to the contrary – went ahead, became a trio and re-invented themselves. And in the process went through a few rough patches until the album matured. All of that done DIY in their own studio. But, oh boy, Dirty Sound Magnet did not fill it with sun-drenched rock pieces that we all kind of expected. Creative Rock, they call their new style – and it is brand new.
At first I was taken aback by the change in direction. I have rarely seen such an experimental, progressively laden and sometimes unhinged chunk of rock this side of early Strawbs. And those had their heyday back in the .. ’70s. Still going strong to this day, Strawbs nevertheless were at the outset of a lot of the progressive and alternative movements. Just think about some of their masterpieces like Hero and Heroine, From the Witchwood or the more disturbing Grave New World. But this is of course not a tribute to Strawbs, but sets the scene for the new Dirty Sound Magnet album and its Western Lies.
But why go so far back with comparisons? Because the way Dirty Sound Magnet went with experimentation constantly reminds me of what has been already done long ago. And not many bands in this day and age day have this courage.
To drive their point home further, the band somewhat crankily go after hefty stuff plaguing society these days. The money man, religious zeal, racist issues and general unpleasant inner workings of today’s world. You name it.
All these heavy lyrics are delivered by Stavros Dzodzos, sounding like a mix of Mike Rosenfeld’s chipmunk utterings, Cat Stevens’ savvy song delivery and a good rendition of Ozzy Osbourne and his trademark whine. Again a total toss-up compared to the former vocal style. From exuberant to thoughtful and downright quiet and psychedelic. Too quiet and way too psych depending on how you look at it.
Stavros’ many talents really come to the forefront in this album. It gorges with the latter’s outstanding guitar work. And – I daresay – it increased in complexity and technical savvy. You will find no mindless riffing, but thoughtful delivery of melodies, tasty riffs and semi-acoustic or electric solos, sprinkled with wah-wah, echoes and whatnot. This is all more Schenker-esque precision than the sloppy work often displayed these days in other band.
All this jazz is backed up with a pretty tasty bass contribution by Marco Mottolini. And Maxime Cosandey‘s varied, yet never boring drum work. The band bemoaned the fact that it took them so long to come up with their newest piece of work. But looking at the complexity, I am not surprised.
In addition Dirty Sound Magnet chose to embellish their rock with some Yello-ish electronics that so many bands have miserably failed at already. Yet theirs binds pretty well into the overall surrounding rock without too much griping. Even if they overdid it big time in the atrocious Homo Economicus, grave as the subject may be.
Yet, the album takes off with a pretty excellent instrumental The Sophisticated Dark Ages (2007- present) with some of that stellar guitar work on full display. Followed by a remarkable Cash Cow Superstar with lyrics from the smelly bottom of the music industry.
Western Lies contains its weedy weirdo moments too. For example the three minutes of silence in And Then We Die, which probably means that I am dead or something. Artistic freedom is great, but bitch, please. Okay, to their defense, other bands pulled that one-off already. But this kind of stunt always struck me as a trifle too eccentric for people’s own good.
And what about those fans still wanting to get some of the old style back? Well, a tiny bit finds itself in The Poet and his Prophet. One of the comments I saw on YouTube of a fan somewhat religiously stating that this was like olden times struck me as prophetic in a way. Because their new style will without doubt cost them some of the ‘traditional’ fan base, while gathering others from elsewhere.
To wrap this up, Western Lies is an eclectic piece of work, not for the usual rock consumer happy to operate within the confines of a specific genre. It would thus be real easy to slap a bad rating on these Swiss boys, for the sin of introducing some serious unhinged dissonant disharmony. However, outside of all predictability, the record features many great, excellent moments that by far outweigh the negatives on this record.
In the end Dirty Sound Magnet serves a varied, fascinating dish of rock with Western Lies. And they rightly called their style Creative Rock. The blatant experimentation on the album can seem somewhat overly psycho to some – and sometimes it is. But then DSM are true to their calling and deliver exactly what they said they would. A slab of rock straight from their soul. Authentic, passionate and true. And you feel this energy once you let the music flow in. Just take your time and the record will reveal itself.
It takes courage to depart for new beginnings with such an ultimate change of direction to shores unknown. And for that I salute them. Chapeau, as we say.
[Editors note: The record successfully made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome VI edition. Congrats.]
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