I can’t help it. Whenever anyone begins a sentence with `did you know…,’ I am subliminally triggered to nearly shout, in my best Jonathan Lipnicki impersonation, `Did you know that the human head weighs eight pounds?’ and `Did you know that bees and dogs smell fear?’ I’m sure it annoys everyone around me, but I just can’t help myself. I don’t think that Doug Marvin can help himself either. As the lead singer and songwriter for Brooklyn band Dirty on Purpose, he’s found himself deeply mired in early ’90s shoegazey guitar pop and, dad blast it, he just can’t help it. It’s not a bad thing. Marvin, as proven on previous releases, Sleep Late for a Better Tomorrow and Hallelujah Sirens, has a knack for creating memorable waves of hypnotic pop. On Like Bees, Marvin and his bandmates continue on in the same well traveled manner, and though you may be afraid of retreating into the musical past, they smell your fear and counter it with nostalgia.
The last thing I expected from a band that’s had its name dropped alongside such heavyweights as the Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth and the Smashing Pumpkins is a cover of a one-hit wonder from the ’80s. Hearing Dirty on Purpose’s cover of Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel” sent me back to my junior high days instantaneously. It was somewhat of an anomaly of a one-hit wonder in that it became a hit twice, once when it debuted in 1983, and again when it was rerecorded in 1989. (Wiki moment: It was featured on the soundtrack of The Wizard, featuring Fred Savage and…yes, Jenny Lewis) Dirty on Purpose seem to somehow retain the throwaway, bubblegum, dance-y, surface appeal to the song while placing it in some kind of ’90s wall of noise context. I mention the cover first, mainly because it sticks out like a sore thumb on this EP. The first three tracks are all of the same homogenous sort, though pretty. The last track finds DoP getting into some post-rock instrumentalism, and successfully, but that fourth track just dominates the scenery. I suppose it’s like trying to capture a photograph of the Seattle skyline without the Space Needle. Without it, it seems like an ordinary city, and could probably be mistaken for any metropolitan area. With it, it’s easily recognizable, but it somewhat detracts from everything around it.
I’m not sure what Dirty on Purpose were trying to do by covering this completely recognizable song. You’d think that even the original band, Real Life, from Australia, had heard enough of it by eventually releasing seventeen versions of the damn thing. Without it, Like Bees is entertaining enough. The title track jaunts along like a mix between a Cure and Pumpkins song, while “Back to Sleep” marches at a steady pace before opening up into an escalating crescendo, accompanied by two hushed voices, akin to Magic Numbers. “Airshow Disaster,” their foray into an instrumental sound, is fantastic, and could become a new direction for the band based on its success, but unfortunately, most people will remember this EP for its cover. I’m usually a huge fan of cover songs, but there are times when it just seems out of place. This is one of those times.
Smashing Pumpkins- Gish
Catherine Wheel- Adam and Eve