Tuesday, March 03, 2009

CD Review - Dressy Bessy - Holler and Stomp

A full week has gone by...9 days, actually, since I've played a single hand of poker. Of course, the BBT4 has started, but while I sit most of it out, I've been working on more CD reviews for Hybrid Magazine. This time, I actually got to cover one of my favorite Denver bands, Dressy Bessy. However, as you'll see, this outing wasn't quite what I was hoping for...

On occasion, a given assignment to review a particular CD requires some self-disclosure, and this is one of these occasions. I am a Dressy Bessy fanboy, and have been for quite a while, and I am quite unabashed in my admiration for this band. That said, I do not consider Holler and Stomp to be among the band’s best recorded output. In fact, it has to rate as a slight disappointment.

In many ways, Holler and Stomp is not dissimilar to the music coming out of Dressy Bessy camp over the last five years. The record is chock full of powerpop tunes, replete with chunky guitars, pounding rhythms, occasional slight dissonance between vocals and lead parts (e.g., the somewhat Pixies-ish song craft of verses during “Ease Me Down”), and even the odd cowbell or well-placed sound affect. Musicianship is uniformly excellent, as is production. The rhythm section, in particular, seems to be in peak form and Tammy Ealom and John Hill’s guitar tones blend with each other near perfectly. In those respects, Holler and Stomp isn’t really all that different than either of the band’s previous two albums, Electrified or Dressy Bessy.

However, the album ultimately comes across a little bit tired at times. Tammy’s voice has taken on a bit of a world weary character in parts of this record, and, while the compositions themselves range from fair to good, very little of the material reaches the songwriting heights of the triumvirate of “Side 2”, “Stop Foolin’”, and “Electrified”, which combined to make Electrified no less than one of the most entertaining albums of 2005.

The above notwithstanding, Holler and Stomp is still a pretty good album, and a worthy starting point for listeners unfamiliar with the band. Dressy Bessy have been able to crank out the type of fun pop confections in the vein of “Automatic” or “Ten Million Stars” in their sleep, with the level of ease that it takes to pull out a fresh pan of Tollhouse cookies from the Easy Bake Oven. Album closer “Sindy Says” is a delightful number, and a throwback to the band’s more twee-sounding past. I’ve managed to hear the band play around half of the songs on this record in concert, and the songs do take on a bit more urgency and vibrancy in that environment.

If anything, Holler and Stomp really only suffers in comparison to the great heights achieved by Electrified. Nevertheless, repeated listening has done little to alter my perception of a follow-up that can’t quite fill the estimable boots of its predecessor.

No comments: