On Holler and Stomp, Denver, Colorado’s Dressy Bessy continue their attempt to escape the indie pop label that was stuck to them when they formed back in 1996. They earned a cult fandom in 1999 by having two songs featured on the soundtrack for But I’m a Cheerleader. Nearly 10 years after the film’s release, these songs, “If You Should Try to Kiss Her” and “Just Like Henry”, are often called out as requests at the band’s live shows. Though they’ve come a long way towards shrugging off the label since their debut, Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons (1999), it’s hard to completely ditch the cuteness when your singer is Tammy Ealom, crush of boy and girl popsters across the globe.
Other than having a completely one-of-a-kind voice, Ealom sports short, bright red locks complimented by vintage clothing galore. Making the indie pop associations even harder to break free from, guitarist John Hill is also a key player of the Apples in Stereo.
Taking another step forward from 2005’s Electrified, their Transdreamer debut, Dressy Bessy turn the sunshine down another notch on Holler and Stomp. It starts out with the animated “Automatic”, punctuated with a punchy bassline, crunchy guitarwork, and a driving drumbeat. Ealom sings: “I’m going to steal your candy / My pleasure, no pressure / I’m going to eat your candy”. Watch out!
Ealom sings purposely off-key, and there is a discordant quality running throughout “Ease Me Down”, one of this record’s gems. Trying their hand at no wave, this song is breaking ground for Dressy Bessy, proving that they truly are a multi-faceted group. Of course, they don’t completely ditch their indie pop roots. “Shoot, I Love You” is seemingly a throwback for those old school Dressy Bessy fans, a syrupy sweet, toe-tappin’ crooner of a song, complete with whistling. “Anyone Can See” is another poppy number about a girl who’s “never been in love before”. In other words, they don’t completely leave the old school fans in the lurch.
Themes prominent both lyrically and musically in previous Dressy Bessy albums stick around, as well. Their long love affair with getting people to dance is prominent in “Left to the Right” and “In Your Headphones”. One favorite theme is the importance of being happy just being oneself. In “Simple Girlz”, Ealom sarcastically sings: “Outstanding / It must be obvious / I cannot be yours / You want a simple type of girl / A simply happy girl / You love the lucky simple girl”. “Pretty Pleaze” is to Holler and Stomp as “Flower Jargon” is to Sound Go Round; both are the stoner jams of the albums.
It has to be noted that, judging from the album artwork this time round, perhaps they’ve been indulging a bit too much lately. Seemingly made with Photoshop and MS Paint, the album’s graffiti-theme artwork includes both a caterpillar and a butterfly smoking cigarettes, the words “Listen on High”, and a globe spinning around wearing a pair of headphones, among other things. Need I say more? While Dressy Bessy has taken a large step forward, the artwork for Holler and Stomp indicates a large leap backwards in their style, simultaneously less cutsey and less professional. Luckily, the overindulgence has not hurt the band’s sound, and I dare say, may have improved it.