ALBUM REVIEW: Dope Body – ‘Crack A Light’: shriekin’ and howlin’ at the altar

WE’RE looking for silver linings in a mean old year, aren’t we? And one of them, if we skip past all the Julie Andrews things, the bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, shiz tied up with string (you wouldn’t tie up vinyl with string, right? What kind dumbass does that …) is the reemergence of two of Drag City’s finest noiseniks, Magik Markers and Dope Body, after too long away from our eardrums.

Magik Markers dropped their first new physical release in jeez, six years, 2020, just last week; it was scuzzy and ragged and impressionistic and all the good things. Read our review, here. 

And now Baltimore’s Dope Body are back among us with Crack A Light, their first in five. I mean, hallelujah, we can bust out some angst in the best way – with guitars getting a right seeing to.

Let’s cast what remains of our minds back to 2016, just after the four-piece – Andrew Laumann, Zachary Utz, Dave Jacober and John Jones – had released the brilliantly howling Kunk. They were feeling pretty burnt out from seven years at the coalface, writing, recording, touring – seven long years itchin’ since that 2009 breakthrough, the 25 minutes of chrome tape that was Twenty Pound Brick.  They felt as a unit that they’d lost some of the experimental whack along the way; that abstract thang. 

I mean it happens, right? One of the hardest things about being in a band is, well … being in a band.

They just needed a bit of time off: a couple of them headed west, a couple east. And this was before social distancing, when such a concept was just the fever dream of the sociopath.

Suddenly in May they re-emerged with the download only, raw and hellishly vivacious Home Body; read our review here. It contained beauts such as “Repo Man”, drums thrashing away, guitars filthy, feedback dripping. I needed that, you’ll think, puffing on a post Dope Body-coital cigarette. Righteous, that was.

And now we have a full album of cracking guitar sluttishness, Crack A Light. C’mon, we’ll climb through that bust window.

…and through that window straight into the moshpit of “Curve”, all the dirtiest riffing, nasty feedback, singer Andrew Laumann echoey, sinal and unhinged, coming on like Steve Albini. Bung your book of musicology out where we just slipped in: it’s just cracking, dirty fun. “I feel alright,” is the mantric hook, and you do, you needed the abandon.

“Clean & Clear” is nasty and heavy, dripping with sleaze. You might need to wash that honest and beautiful filth off; you may decide to fuck off soap entirely and bathe in the glorious noise. “Lethargic” is anything but; the riff waspish, humming, “I don’t care” the hook leading you deep before it all melts in a furnace of electronic burble and swoop, like being in the pipework of some lumbering industrial hulk offworld.

The boys dropped the two-minute-forty inferno of “Jer Bang” on 9/11, and it thrashes through pleasingly in stop-start riff excellence, all trippily blurred and impressionistic vocals and atonal breaks. It drops you deeper through the trapdoor of “Daylight”, a proper hallucinatory stoner blast. “Lu Lu” comes in on this ominous, horrorfest riff – part early Sabbath, part “Lucifer Sam”, and settles deep inside your organs on jagged guitar retorts and a prism of wailing sonics.

“Lo & Behold” is a short sweep through alien electronica in a Forbidden Planet vein, all raw and primitive; “The Sculptor” takes a Bad Moon Rising cannonade at hardcore, keeping that knife edge and shovelling on the barely harnessed angst. It’s properly music to work out any accumulating mental shit to, which we all need.

The five minutes-plus of “Mutant Being” gradually climbs into life on gnarled, glowering, barely muzzled bass and guitar twin-riffage; heavy as hell, it drops over the line into the kinda blackened landscape Pigs x7 currently overlord, but again dissolves into an incongruous electronic rhythm and a guitar squirming in its fuzz death throes. “More” picks it up and slicks you with the grinding sweat of southern boogie dragged through the heat of punk. “Hypocrite” hits the turbo and keeps you jerking on a simple, electrifying two-note cattleprod.

The boys sign out on the absolutely brilliant distorted space-disco-punk-noise rattle of “Known Unknown” – the best till last? It takes that early-noughties genre premise, electroclash, and rams it face-first through a blender, and then does skids through the glorious mess resulting. Oh man, oh yes. This one you need to be longer, a lot longer; so instead you flip it back.

They’re back, and in many ways Crack A Light feels like a system flush, a necessary purifying at the altar of guitar noise. Much of the album plays in a thrilling delirium in the interstices between hardcore, stoner and thrash; there’s weird interludes and textures that coulda crawled out of some electronics lab circa 1964; but it’s on tracks like the amazing “Known Unknown” that they really offer their Mass wafer to the willing tongues of the congregation.

If you like a guitar best when it shrieks and howls in the grip of duress and inquisition, you sure as hell will get your fix.

Dope Body’s Crack A Light is released by Drag City on digital and LP formats today, October 30th; there’s also various tee-shirt and vinyl bundles. Order yours here.

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