Formed in Seattle Washington back in 2010, Dirty Sidewalks, (brothers Erik and Evan Foster and long-time friend Evan O’Neil) have released their first studio album, Bring Down The House Lights. How do these relatively unknown newcomers measure up?
Through a haze of Britpop nostalgia, loaded with fat bass and feedback laden guitar comes the opening track, “Rock & Roll (Save My Soul)”. With Damon Albarn-esque vocals (albeit they’re a bit more polished) Dirty Sidewalks bring all the casual rock confidence of 90’s greats such as Oasis and Blur to the table; and they’ve brought it all the way from Seattle.
This stateside take on some of Britain’s greatest exports doesn’t end here either. On the third track, “Already”, the foggy guitar and bass distortion that the Gallaghers utilised so well comes through a cleaner filter of shoegaze influence, tempering the aggression found on our side of the pond and cleaning up the garage-rock vibes – and this is no bad thing in this instance. As the track merges with “Always”, the reverb helps sculpt the track into a track ready for a summer festival that will capture crowds on either side of the Atlantic.
Replete with a tambourine, bongo drums and vocal melodies to complete this festival feeling comes “Black Holes” later in the album, whilst the track on its own doesn’t really hold up, it does lead gaplessly into “Where’s the Love”, and returns seamlessly into the Britpop influence side of the band. With the addition of synth and reverb, the band do an excellent job of emulating their influences, but without coming across as backwards-facing and overly retrospective, like so many British indy bands.
Leaning more towards their harmonic shoegaze side comes one of the leading tracks of the album, “Heard You Wanna Kill Me”. The guitars on the track are immediately a more sparkling texture than on previous tracks and the lilting, Beach Boys-inspired vocals take on the surf rock tonality the influencing band are famous for. It’s a bit of a drop-in pace from their opening trio of songs, but all in very much the same, very interesting wheelhouse.
Towards the end of the album, the Britpop remains, but the drive leans away from the Northern/London grungier edge and borrows a little more from the softer Welsh side of the genre. With two tracks that the Manic Street Preachers would be proud of, comes “2nd Song” and “Never Be Alone”. With cleaner, shimmering guitar and more relaxed vocals, the tracks still retain their bright and enthusiastic energy and keep the album varied and interesting.
After tailing the album off with “Either Way” and “House II” (and some strummed guitar chords that made me think I’d lapsed into some unheard B-Side of The Cure) the album comes to a relatively gentle and natural rest.
For a band that has yet to form even its own Wikipedia page, the quality of the work found across the album is extremely impressive. Having cast a wide net in the trawl for influences, the Washington three-piece have drawn in quite the catch. Bring Down The House Lights is exciting, if not totally ground-breaking, and holds that essential piece of the puzzle to give the band potential to really hit a meteoric rise into the mainstream; they’re different. Granted the Britpop and shoegaze influences are there, as well as their 80’s US garage-rock tinges, but the end result is more than a simple sum of its parts.
This reviewer for one, will definitely be keeping an eye out for when they make it over this side of the pond.
Author: Steve, Southgate store