As we're all well aware by now, the window of musical-temporal referencing has sped up at an alarming rate. The nostalgia snake hasn't quite managed to choke down its own historical tail yet, but it can almost taste it. No surprise then that it seems like only a few months ago that we were name-checking every '90s-era Boston band we could think of in our breathless fawning over Dirty Dishes here in the Phoenix; but on their new EP, The Most Tarnished Birds, they've already made it all the way up the rock timeline to Avril Lavigne.
HIGH FIDELITY On Dirty Dishes' new single "Hush," Jenny Tuite's vocals are a heart-shaped helium balloon tethered to a massive chunk of pavement.
That's one comparison I suspect they might not exactly relish, but as someone who numbers himself among the band's supporters (and the #1 34-year-old Avril fanboy in the world!), it's meant as a compliment. No one is going to mistake the breathy, slowly unfolding, creeping verses of "Gaze" or the towering wall of amplified space-rock of "Blur" for disposable mall punk, but there's an undeniably romantic power-ballad appeal to the songs' heaving choruses, the type of tracks that could well find a place in the hearts of brooding, "complicated" teenagers the world over.
It's a good thing. Hewing closer to the melodic pop side of their typically brainy, well-wrought art-rock/shoegaze/spaced-out/power-bliss/mope-grunge is something I'm happy to hear from the band, whose most approachable song previously was the 2010 stunner "In the Clouds." There's room for both guitar art and mass appeal here.
Singer/guitarist Jenny Tuite is still in the clouds on the new EP, as on the quiet-loud crunch of "Hush." Like many of the songs here, it sounds like a conflict between aether and firmament — Tuite's vocals a heart-shaped helium balloon tethered to a massive chunk of structural pavement. "Blur" is a titanic wave of feedback, a squall of noise wrapped around another disguised modern-rock radio hit, with multiple layers of vocals and guitar pounding. For all the feedback, it all sounds more polished than their previous EP, recorded in a basement.
"This record coming out has the most amount of feedback and noise of everything we ever recorded," guitarist/keyboard player Alex Molini says. Adds Tuite: "I went in a room after we were done recording everything, at like two in the morning, and I recorded an hour-long session of just feedback, wearing tons of earplugs, and those weird headphones people mow the lawn with."
Working at Wooly Mammoth in Waltham proved to be a boon for the band, with experiments galore. "The vibe there is so cool; you kind of feel haunted but in an awesome way," Tuite says. That's a good approximation of their music in general, actually. "The first record, we didn't have enough time to get the sounds we wanted and the quality, and this time it was really awesome. We took a really long time to get drum sounds and guitar tones."
In the time since that release, the band have logged some serious road time, with a two-month tour last year where they placed around 50 dates. Not a result that one might have expected to happen given the story of their meeting. "I went out for a Halloween party, and I got a little too intoxicated," Molini explains, before Tuite chimes in: "He threw up on my best friend who he'd just met that night!"