Dirty on Purpose
t worst, Hallelujah Sirens evokes a female American Apparel model sashaying around an intimate venue in a dress made out of a towel, eyes closed, tossing her greasy, sand-speckled, dirty blonde ponytail from side to side; at best, I am tossing my dirty blonde ponytail from side to side in imitation of having discovered the next best thing in indie rock, knowing full well that I haven’t.
Hallelujah, which could’ve been a fleshing out of the band’s 2005 EP, proves a somnambulant fifty minutes of shoegaze peppered with rock minutiae, an album that hinges on a tame playground tussle between disparate pop dreamweavers in one corner and 80s revival rockers in the other. The four-note riff that opens “Your Summer Dress” is a diluted excuse for a melody that the band salvages with infinite strata of electric guitar strums, a maneuver employed on nearly every track—though the law of averages dictates several of those tracks can only be average.
I gave them a chance. Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow was an elegant, energetic EP. But the adagio domination of Hallelujah cinches the dullest Belle and Sebastian compositions, complete with shiny, languorous female-male vocal duets; and slows them down to a trot. Not that the pleasant melodies of piano and violin or the waltzing invocation of “Lake Effect” aren’t redeemable; I just want to hear the boisterous cheer of “All New Friends” or the EP’s title track. But no such postures, save one, are found on this full-length.
“Car No Driver” is a messy, murky, unnavigable journey: treble is at trace amounts, bass soars, and melody is indiscernible and dull. “There’s a lot going on,” I remind myself, but those goings on are ultimately discordant and unadventurous. One is naturally reminded of My Bloody Valentine, but while MBV’s music is consistently harmonious, ethereal, and imaginative, betraying long, grueling hours of experimentation upon alteration, Dirty on Purpose is primarily an anemic tribute to an inimitable band. “Always Looking” (part two) is a dewy, lovely reminder of The Boy with the Arab Strap, but it could be much more; DOP would be wise to lavish each layer of sound with attention, rather than hastily—or lazily—throwing the layers on top of each other. The band’s music can be highly organic, and each element of it should be treated as such.
One case where TLC is duly employed is “Monument,” a U2-infused, extravagant, highly successful electric guitar showcase. It’s a riveting dialogue between two melodies that mimic and chase each other for three minutes before descending into aurally overstuffed chaos and, finally, harmony. This is followed too closely—grabbed around the ankles—by “Kill Our City” and the pathetic lyric, “Please don’t go / Don’t go,” sung by what can only be your most annoying ex-boyfriend. But even that track manages to evolve into the dark, tinselly song I wanted it to be. Elsewhere, I wasn’t so lucky, but I contend this isn’t a matter of taste, only a case of winner vs. loser, and no one likes a tie. Here, I was rooting for rock, which could have pulled a little harder on dream pop’s ponytail.