Dirty on Purpose is a name somewhat like Built to Spill—it conveys sloppiness, imperfections, failure. Yet both bands, though not stylistically similar, share a similarly perfect sort of imperfection. Both bands’ vocalists named Doug, Marvin and Martsch respectively, share a singing style that’s endearing and melodic, yet errs on the side of quirky over, say, operatic. Yet, Dirty on Purpose plays a style of music that’s so taut and aerodynamic, one could hardly find anything “dirty” about it, aesthetically speaking.
As previewed on last year’s Sleep Late for a Better Tomorrow EP, Dirty on Purpose’s style is a fuzzy mélange of hazy, effects-laden shoegazer rock and delicate indie pop. While one could certainly consider their distorted waves of guitar “dirty,” they come off sounding more graceful and streamlined than those of a garage rock band. Lead single “Light Pollution” is a perfect example, a Sonic Youth-like abrasive intro leading the way toward an almost aquatic wash of distortion and melody, flowing rather than bursting into a torrential flow. The verses, however, are far more subdued, as the band opts for a gentler, cleaner pop sound, which ascends into the romantic, heavy-hitting chorus, which finds Marvin suggesting to “take the long way home.”
More noise washes over the opener, “No Radio,” as a horn section trades places with the controlled-guitar-chaos during the chorus. And again, we have an example of the band playing an imperfect take on perfection. As the fuzzy guitars sound like they might spiral out of control at any given moment, the band deftly shifts from one part to the next, transitioning seamlessly from beginning to end. Meanwhile, “Your Summer Dress” is dreamier and less immediate, floating into a pop hook that finds the meeting place between The Cure’s ballads and Sonic Youth’s singles. Marvin, however, sounds more like Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan and, appropriately enough, a higher voiced Ira Kaplan. It should also be noted that the band DoP is most often compared to is Yo La Tengo, who are definitely still an apt reference point.
Still, it’s the culmination of the band’s varied influences that make them such a enjoyable listen, from the gentle folky strums of “Lake Effect,” which sounds a bit like The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” to the ultra-fuzzy, woozy power pop of “Car No Driver.” And that there’s such a wide array of moods displayed here compounds the intrigue. The energized joy of “No Radio” contrasts starkly with the intensity of “Monument” or the hypnotic ecstasy of “Light Pollution.” Hallelujah Sirens is both summer and winter, spring and fall, doing each imperfectly and yet, somehow, sounding perfectly gorgeous.
Yo La Tengo – Electr-O-Pura
Asobi Seksu – Citrus
Lilys – Eccsame the Photon Band
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.