I’ve always wanted to visit the Southwest; the barren deserts in between worn-down old towns, watching abandoned people drive on those straight roads that go on forever. It always seemed like a place to find yourself, or at least a good place to start looking. Yeah, Vegas is civilized, but what about on the outskirts? Everything is sparse, bare, organic. It’s a far cry from the bustling suffocation of New York and that’s perhaps why Alex Zhang Hungtai’s Badlands
appeals to me so much. There ain’t no doubt in my mind that I’m lost here in 2011, not sure where to go if there even is a place. I believe Hungtai knows what I am talking about, or at least feels long gone as well.
is a last-call for help: I can picture Hungtai wandering through the desert aimlessly, on his last breaths, just looking for one final purpose. He ends up falling into a deep canyon, so far down that light is barely able to make an entrance. He cries for aid, tired and unable to find hope. But there is no help, there is no one for hundreds of miles in any direction. So he sits, ponders on what choices there are left to make, and decides the only way to spend his final hours on this desolate planet is to put on his old favorite records and let the music take its course. Badlands
is like taking your favorite music (in this case, Hungtai’s is rockabilly) and dissolving it to its fundamental roots, and then smashing
the foundation with a sledgehammer. Badlands
is psychotic; not structurally, but Hungtai takes a rather personable genre of music and injects it with 500 mg of benzodiazepine, collapsing any welcoming nature rockabilly might have and instead creating a lonely ode to the past.
It’s unbelievably refreshing, to not only hear someone as destroyed and lost as I am, but to feel it in a way that’s just not around anymore. It takes courage to record this today, a lo-fi, gloomy, 50’s style retro affair that never loses focus and never wavers. Plus it flat out rocks (just listen to those desperate screams of “sweet 17!”
at the end of the aforementioned track). There’s no contemporary deviation from the formula, Dirty Beaches are dead-set on being completely uncompromising.