Dirty Projectors
Rise Above


3.5
great

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
December 16th, 2007 | 18 replies | 9,728 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Effeminate hipsters cover legendary testosterone-fueled hardcore album and it actually works.

The Dirty Projectors - Rise Above

So apparently I was wrong to hate. When I first heard that some indie band was covering Black Flag's legendary album, Rise Above, I dismissed it as a truly unfortunate, laughable combination. I never really liked Black Flag, and to have some pitchfork darlings give their take of a stripped down, aggressive hardcore album couldn't have helped the cause too much. I imagined this album as a tepid reworking of the songs chord progressions but with accordions and ukeleles or something pompous like that. But when, two months later, a friend hooked me up with The Dirty Projectors' Rise Above on a recommendation, I was massively surprised. The way the Dirty Projectors, led by "musical director," Dave Longstreth, took to the album was in a way I didn't expect at all. This is not a cover album. It's not a parody. It's not a tribute. All the Dirty Projectors did was strip down the songs to their bare essentials as hardcore songs - they extracted the lyrics and the melodies - and then create lush orchestration around those original found materials. Yes, this is "bastardized pop" as so much other popular indie music is (Xiu Xiu, Girl Talk, Deerhoof, etc.), but this album stands out above other typical hipster fare. The lyrics, which were originally shouted have now been rendered in fairly bombastic male lead vocals, with tripled female accompanying vocals. The guitar, which was previously grating and distorted, are now all clean-tone and trebly. They sound bright. The bass and drums, which previously acted as a way to fuel the naked aggression of hardcore, is now a way to accent the offbeat, midtempo rhythms. This album is not just a reworking, it's a complete reinterpretation, and even then, it's not Black Flag's original message that they're reinterpreting; The Dirty Projectors are creating an entirely new album out of shreds from a classic album.

Getting over my initial surprise at liking Rise Above though, some gripes started to peek out of the cracks of this album. The vocals, while refreshing considering I usually listen to hardcore and am used to the kind of harsh shouting found on the original album, ultimately cloy by the third listen. While I'm definitely a fan of the trio of female backup singers and Longstreth's quiet singing on the slower tracks like "Police Story" and his emotive singing on the amazing "Rise Above," the vocals are often very goofy, acting as more of a distraction than an essential part of the songwriting. His wails and whelps really just do very little for the music. My other main complaint is that the music can get too circus-like at times. I appreciate the Zappa-esque variety and absurdity to some of the arrangements, but on some tracks the variety of tones and guitar lines can become slapstick. For example, the faux-blues of "Six Pack" does not mix well with the female vocals and sounds like a skinny jeans version of Bruce Springsteen more than anything else. My last main complaint about this album is that it's god damned pretentious and pompous. It takes some moxie to redo a classic album in any regard (which I actually like about this album), but the Dirty Projectors take that confidence to extreme points. Do I really need a minimalist version of "Room 13?" Probably not. Do I need the vocal trio singing fast unison melodies throughout "What I See?" Is it really all that artistic to compose a violin duet to introduce "No More?" No, not really, but that's just part of the bombastic world of The Dirty Projectors.

And now that I have gotten over both my initial surprise with this album's awesomeness and my disillusionment with this album's faults, I'm actually really content with it all. The arrangements, though sometimes clown-like, are definitely complex and wonderful for most of the album. Though at this point, arpeggio is a pretty played out guitar technique, Longstreth has reinvented it for me. Most of this success is rooted in the fact that the harmonic progressions on this album are awesomely original, but the arpeggios are also nice within themselves, as Longstreth tosses in nice little sweeps and hammers instead of just playing them all legato. The vocal performances, while also goofy at times, are the characteristic instruments of this album. The female vocals are very memorable and help render these ex-hardcore songs in their new, quieter modes. I guess the delicate female touch works wonders here. Ultimately, I get the sense that this album is a great one. Maybe it doesn't have the relevance as the original album, and doesn't quite live up to the legacy, but it is intelligently composed and often moving. At times the Dirty Projectors are pretentious and overconfident in their abilities, but that attitude also helps them breathe new, complex life into songs that are (relatively) mundane and breakneck. Oh ya, and "Rise Above" is one of the best songs I've heard in a long long time. I recommend this album to hipsters and tough guys alike.



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user ratings (63)
Chart.
3.3
great
other reviews of this album
Frunobulax (5)
Utterly engrossing album of Black Flag re-imaginings that are neither punk nor pop....


Comments:Add a Comment 
IsItLuck?
Emeritus
December 16th 2007



4925 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

From what I heard, I didn't like, but I really didn't listen to the whole album yet. so yeah.

plane
Staff Reviewer
December 16th 2007



6073 Comments


I don't see how this is pretentious. I mean, it's cheeky for sure, but why I liked the album so much on the first few listens was how fun it was without feeling like they were trying hard to cash in on the gimmick or feel like they had any right to. It'd be pretentious if they were trying to emulate Black Flag's "masterpiece," but it feels more like a loving homage.

But otherwise, I agree with a bunch of your points, especially the vocals. The review is patchy in places though, so you might want to re-read it to catch the typos and such. Damn isn't censored.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
December 17th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ya I wanted to get this out quickly because I was leaving for a show. I have yet to reread for errors.

Iai
Emeritus
December 17th 2007



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This album is really good when I listen to it one day and then really fucking annoying when I listen to it the next.

JAD
December 17th 2007



200 Comments


I heard the title track, and was really disapointed. I'll probably still look into this further and give it another chance.

Mahavidya
December 17th 2007



99 Comments


It'd be pretentious if they were trying to emulate Black Flag's "masterpiece," but it feels more like a loving homage
uh what

plane
Staff Reviewer
December 17th 2007



6073 Comments


sorry i meant what a fucking rip off

AggravatedYeti
January 28th 2008



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

So far I've really been liking this album.

Good review, you're dead on about the vocals, though I've gotten used to them as of recent.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
October 5th 2008



3752 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well, this is different. My mate put this on in his car today and I was like No way... Didn't think it could be done, but I guess it can be =/ Will have to give THIS a proper spin.

Digging: Pharoahe Monch - PTSD

windpromoteshate
June 15th 2009



179 Comments


When I first heard that some indie band was covering Black Flag's legendary album, Rise Above, I dismissed it as a truly unfortunate, laughable combination.


You have no idea what you're talking about.

Mendross
December 10th 2009



351 Comments


I never thought of ukeleles and accordions as pompous

qwe3
December 10th 2009



21154 Comments


fuck i hate the dirty projectors

burnafterbreeding
January 4th 2010



1466 Comments


fuck i hate the dirty projectors


i love comments like this.

kitsch
January 9th 2010



5105 Comments


rise above isnt a black flag album.


black flag rulez d00d how can u not like them

offsciencehill
May 20th 2010



2 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

WHY IS DIRTY PROJECTORS' OTHER ALBUMS NOT LISTED ON THIS SITE?

downright criminal

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
May 20th 2010



3752 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

http://www.sputnikmusic.com/submit2.php?Submit1=Submit1&band=Dirty+Projectors

List them.

brutebeard
August 29th 2010



1655 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

"downright criminal"

haha damn straight!

They squeezed some more life outa these punk songs

blaisetheslayer
July 11th 2012



107 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

This bored the piss out of me.



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