Review Summary: A ferocious record that deftly coalesces noise rock with early grunge and psychedelic flourishes.
Regardless of a genre the best artists are capable of finding new ways to alternate their sound while retaining artistic integrity. Baltimore quartet Dope Body mastered their insanely dynamic brand of noise rock on 2012's Natural History
. While the genre's signature scuzzy stylings remained intact, the quartet's fixation on funk and quirky grooves made the songs all the more vibrant. Lifer
could easily be a triumphant sequel to that. Yet the band have chosen to reinvent themselves, coming up with a record that's more faithful to noise rock's humble beginnings. There are numerous nods here not only to the 1990's genre heroes like Jesus Lizard and Drive Like Jehu, but also to underrated early grunge groups such as TAD and Mudhoney. This stylistic shift is also reflected in way rawer studio execution that evokes the feel of the act's intense live shows.
This may be their love letter to discordant alternative rock of the 1990s, but Dope Body also make an effort to leave their own stamp on the end product. The songs burst with unflagging energy, clever transitions and riveting sonic manipulation, the features that lend the record its high replay value. 'Hired Gun,' for instance, bristles with off-kilter, spiky guitar parts that are interwoven with heavily distorted verses and an irresistible chorus to invigorating effect. 'Rare Air' goes for a summery vibe with wobbly guitar licks and watery, dub-like basslines, while the full-on punk of 'Day By Day' gives way to an acidic breakdown sonically reminiscent of 'Leather Head,' the bruiser out of the band's Saturday EP
works even better when the tracks escalate patiently from subdued verses to explosive choruses. This new-found interest in dynamics shines through 'Echo' that rapidly switches from toned-down psychedelic passages to violent outbursts of fury, but also propels the impeccably paced 'Even In The End' which shows how playful and accessible the group can get. Still there's mounting tension at the heart of many songs concocted on the grounds of balanced performances. Guitarist Zachary Utz finds a comfortable middle ground between vicious distorted swells, slow strung-out leads and chaotic solos. Meanwhile, frontman Andrew Laumann's vocal delivery has vastly expanded as his brute, cavemen-like posturing gets augmented with compelling clean vocals on numerous occasions.
The band’s raw, vitriolic sound signals that they've evolved into a sleek and unapologetic noise machine. Yet Lifer
is a concept album of sorts. It tackles the notion of individuals who have difficulty choosing their direction in life. This certainly dictates Laumann's more focused approach to lyrics which stand in stark contrast with the stream-of-consciousness musings on the previous album. Dope Body have managed to modulate their sound without watering down the characteristics that made them unique in the first place. In consequence, Lifer
is a ferocious record that deftly coalesces noise rock with early grunge and psychedelic flourishes. It's a trip down memory lane well worth taking.