(Lady Luck Records)
I think this is the first record by a female artist that I have ever actually reviewed, and to be honest, the prospect is daunting. It feels like I’ve been remiss, really, but as under-represented as women are in rock and metal, you can hardly blame me. Anyway, as a sensitive, progressive, left-leaning renaissance man (ie, a pussy), I’m gonna try my hardest not to be misogynistic or patriarchal or sexist in this review, because frankly, I’m better than that, and you all know it.
There’s a bit of everything in Sassy Kraimspri. She has a voice that could raise the dead, among other things. And she knows her way around a chorus. Among other things.
This is a lot harder than it looks, trust me.
Dirty White Lies has got three distinct things going for it that push it way beyond the realm of the ‘merely quite good’ and into the land of ‘genuinely ace’. One is the voice, possessed of a range that veers from snarling pop-punk to yearning balladry without an instant’s pause. Another is the solid layer of baritone guitar that throbs across the entire album, dumping steam shovels full of raw power and spontaneity into your tabs. The third is a set of song-writing chops that make it difficult to credit this as ‘just’ a debut album. It’s strong, confident, and, in places, absolutely fucking massive.
Fundamentally, putting this album on is like playing a game of hopscotch with all of the rock genres. There’s sludgy bits, punky bits, black metal bits, and heart-aching melody bits, and it’s all so well-blended that it’s hard to tell where one influence ends and another begins. And it’s all egged up in a shell of 2kool4skool attitude that appeals to crusty old idiots like me. It reminds me of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (and, inevitably, his Cristina Martinez-fronted side-project Boss Hog) in that regard, and I could hardly think of a better band to be compared to.
Better Daze is a minute-and-a-half of thick, heavy guitars chainsawing away at a washy beat, with a chorus that will probably make you go ‘haha what’, purely because you will not remotely have seen it coming. It is genius, and it brings us to …Am I Gonna Feel Like Shit in the Morning, which moves at a fraction of the pace, with a riff I could imagine hearing on a Melvins record. It switches places with an odd-number verse, all quiet and moody; then here comes a sweetly-crooned bridge. And it all makes sense, it all hangs together, even though the component parts have so little in common. Or there’s Take it Slow which actually sounds closer to Morcheeba than The Donnas, and that is unquestionably a very good thing.
Toy Boy, the lead single, is probably my least favourite tune here, actually. Not to say it’s bad, but it’s a pretty straightforward punky rattle from one end to the other of its three minutes, compared to say, All Work and No Play or All for Me, both of which are rootsy stompers that stand out even against this background of quality. All for Me, in particular, has somehow managed to wow me by simply making its gorgeous chorus quieter than the verse. It’s such a simple and subtle dynamic idea that I can’t believe it’s not ubiquitous. But offhand, I cannot think of anything else I’ve heard recently that doesn’t just stamp on every pedal and twist the gain knob till it breaks for the sing-a-long bits.
Older is emblematic of the quieter passages of this record, and it showcases Kraimspri’s way with a melody to absolutely devastating effect. Subtle orchestration here calls to mind the likes of Elliott Smith or perhaps even the chamber pop of a Polyphonic Spree or the like.
I really, really like this album.
8 pats on the head out of 10.