2017 can be summarised in fifteen words: Donald Trump, Donald Trump, extreme conservatism, Donald Trump, fake news, Donald Trump, Donald Trump, sad. Kill me now! And despite my gregarious lust for a good political rant, I’ll try here to spare all and sundry the tedium of me bashing my head against a wall over and over and over.
Suffice to say, that Donald Trump is fast becoming to the U.S. what Maggie Thatcher was to Britain; a talisman. A beacon of sorts that defiles the English language to such putrid extremes and suffocates the world’s population with his projectile word vomit – which ironically is a similar shade to his outer reptilian lizard skin – to the point where loud music everywhere crawls from the bunkers of an era of Obama-led nonchalance and straight to a speaker near you. Tyrannical government means killer music. Donald Trump is a rock ‘n’ roll beacon!
In the current climate, all elements are catered for; Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys who smashed their way into our collective consciousness this year with their rather unsubtle yet blisteringly good ‘Cost of Living’ LP have the rampaging political protest side of things covered. Prolific hipster pleasers and psychedelic technocrats, Melbourne’s King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard, have the quirky, this-is-fun-for-a-minute, yippeeee! section sorted, which leaves just one important element remaining. Perhaps the most important. The soul. What’s good for the soul? Pure, balls-out rock ‘n’ roll! Whose responsible for satisfying our souls in this train wreck of a year? The Darts! Definitely The Darts.
The September release of The Dart’s ‘Me.Ow.‘ could not have come quick enough for those of us who began the year all fire and brimstone but by May or June had pretty much regressed into a predictable foetal position of teenage sulkiness and I don’t give a fuck anymore attitude. Those months between June and September were brutal, but like all things incredible, they only come to those who wait. So wait we did. And by the end of August, this happened…
What’s apparent from the opening chord of ‘The Cat’s Meow’ is that The Darts are damn good fun. No pretension here. No political gimmickry or commentary on whatever the social faux pas fad of the day is. Instead, the listener is delivered with the ultimate cure for 2017 blues, a Zoloft for the earholes if you will, The Darts. And ‘The Cat’s Meow’ is the perfect place to kick off this review. -Yep, it’s only taken five paragraphs-
What’s achieved in the three minutes and forty-two seconds of ‘The Cat’s Meow’ must not be taken for granted. The album opener is a highly accessible gateway to blissful psych and garage rock with pop sensibilities and a hell of a lot of breathiness. The all-girl group – Michelle Balderrama (guitar/vocals) Nicole Laurenne (organ/vocals) Christina Nunez (bass/vocals) and the brilliantly-named Rikki Styxx (drums/vocals) all slink their way through the surf twang, primal pounding and spectral Farfisa organ of ‘The Cat’s Meow’, delivering the honour of a promise along the way: rock ‘n’ roll will win the day.
The production for the album itself is genius and I can only assume that it’s Flying Blanket Recording’s Bob Hoag who is the person to thank for such. The resonance hurtling through the speakers contains just a pinch of intangibility, alluding to a sound not dissimilar to a band playing under a thick layer of quicksand or behind a curtain made of sludge. There is swampy mud all over this album and it sticks to the soul like a cat’s claw. This is a good thing. Above all, it’s that aforementioned spectral Farfisa that permeates right throughout ‘Me.Ow.’, particularly on the tracks ‘Strange Days’ ‘Slay Me’ and ‘Caught in the Devil’s Game’ that gets me every time. The wallowing notes breeze and tickle the listener, leaving them in a state of sonic majesty. Look up the words brooding, haunting and teasing in the dictionary and there’s a picture of Nicole Laurenne playing the Farfisa.
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There is a definite thread throughout the entirety of ‘Me.Ow.’, one of self confidence, primeval rock ‘n’ roll attitude and a lust for manic fun. The rip-roaring ‘The Generator’ oozes with gritty menace while the tracks ‘Get Messy’ and ‘Don’t Freak Me Out’ harken back to the acid drenched garage fuzz of the 1960s. These tracks on any album and during any era are more than enough to deliver a killer high-heeled boot strut across the music world’s lower back, but in the case of ‘Me.Ow.’ it’s the sleazy and sultry psych haze of ‘You’ll Bring Me Flowers’ that really brings home just how far The Darts have come from their earlier work. And the challenge lays ahead for these girls; to crash the music scene with such a perfectly crafted album soaked in the purity and ethos of garage rock ‘n’ roll, laden with swampy psych and tinged with the perfect amount of saccharine sweet, is a remarkable achievement, particularly in a world where garage rock is fast becoming numbing due to over-saturation. The challenge is to keep that momentum and standard rolling along into album two, three, four and beyond. And they will, I have no doubt.
I’m not about to sit here and compare The Darts’ sound to that of any other band; I hate that. In this contemporary day and age at least, there is no comparison. ‘Me.Ow.’ transcends genre, clique and age group. It smashes down the barriers of hipster snobbery, satiates the degenerate thirst for rock ‘n’ roll and cuts through the mediocre that dominates many facets of today’s music world. There is absolutely no reason why the kids can’t burn their Ed Sheeran or goddamn Maroon 5 records and dig on a Darts album instead. It’s good, old-fashioned, uplifting fun without a word of politics or doom and gloom. As I said, all the elements are there. The Darts are the complete package – musical nous, r ‘n’ r chops, and a killer look – and too bad if you don’t like it because these chicks are here to stay. And that’s exactly what 2017 and beyond needs. My soul thanks them.
Yep. ‘Me.Ow.’s mud sticks alright and Lord, I ain’t ever gonna shower again.
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A big thank you to 50Thirdand3rd’s own Ms. Moneynine for thrusting this album in mine, and many other music freaks’ direction, thus spreading the good word unto all of us, the disciples of rock ‘n’ roll. Amen.