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Music

Dirty Americans: Strange Generation

Michael Franco

Another hard rock band that's going to save rock from indie nerds and technophiles. Yeah, right... if only Yo La Tengo could kick these guys' asses.


Dirty Americans

Strange Generation

Label: Liquor and Poker
US Release Date: 2005-03-22
UK Release Date: 2004-03-15
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Every few years a band comes along that is immediately hailed as the savior of rock 'n' roll. You know these bands: the ones that eschew fashion, technological developments (except in how they relate to stage pyrotechnics), anything remotely trendy or innovative, and anything relating to any movement of any kind. These are the bands, their fans are quick to proclaim, that practice true rock 'n' roll, whatever that means. These bands are also devoted to the hard rock/heavy metal sound and have no qualms about riffing in excess; indeed, riffing in excess often seems to be the goal.

The problem with this phenomenon is that it assumes rock 'n' roll needs saving. Apparently, if you use the studio as an instrument rather than a tool or use the word "experimental" when describing your music, you are part of the problem. If you mess with the verse/chorus/verse/chorus/guitar solo/chorus formula, you're desecrating sacred ground. True, some bands might learn a thing or two from adhering to this formula a little more, but holy it is not, and many great bands would have never been if every group stayed within these confines. Still, there are hordes of hard rock fans who feel that rock needs saving, and they are eager to jump on any bandwagon that rawks, man. And so we have Dirty Americans, a group whose sound is described by their label as "the Easy Rider, raisin' hell, alcohol-fueled brand of rock". Hailing from that most sacred of rock cities -- Detriot -- Dirty Americans plan to give sissy rock a much-deserved kick in the ass. Hmmm...

Granted, Dirty Americans do play with the raunchy aplomb hard rock fans crave. Every song on their debut, Strange Generation, is textbook material: thundering, sonorous bass; driving, pounding drums; lightning-speed guitar playing; and plenty of dark growls and pained yells. Songs like "No Rest" and "Burn You Down" begin with repetitive riffs that are massive and menacing, building in intensity until the release of the chorus. In "Control", frontman Myron (yes, just Myron) starts the song by seething, "Take a look into my bloodshot eyes..." How's that for an ominous beginning? And, just like every good hard rock band should do, Dirty Americans know how to slow down with a song that starts off light and acoustic, then launches into a full-on sonic barrage of ass-kicking fret flying: "Give It Up" is your classic power ballad, alternating between regretful reflection and angry proclamations.

This probably sounds like a masterpiece to some, but Strange Generation is predictable and everything you'd expect from a band whose name is such an apparent pose. Like their name, Dirty Americans are trying -- very hard -- to evoke the clichéd archetype of the rock rebel whose life is a constant rotation of guitars, women, and alcohol. Much like their Detroit counterpart Kid Rock, Dirty Americans mistakenly believe they belong to a royal rock 'n' roll lineage that's preaching the real gospel, not the pop radio version. What's infuriating is that bands like Dirty Americans are inevitably described as being influenced by Led Zeppelin, Cream, Aerosmith, and Black Sabbath. Oh sure, such comparisons are convenient and somewhat accurate. Like these rock icons, Dirty Americans play loud and heavy, and somewhere beneath the frantic riffing is a blues influence. Still, these rock revivalist bands have more in common with '80s hair metal in that they bastardize their influences. Even Robert Plant, who was guilty of writing such lyrical drivel as "The Lemon Song", would never pen something as cornball as the chorus to "Car Crash": "Your love is like a car crash / You leave me bloody and take all my money". Are physical pain images mandatory in hard rock? Strange Generation is full of such self-consciously metal moments, moments when persona and trying too hard get in the way of truly talented musicians.

If you're the type of person who actually enjoys music at strip bars, you'll like Dirty Americans, for you are exactly the demographic they are courting: raucous, impulsive, and obsessed with reviving real rock. If, however, you're like most folks and think such music is nothing more than a parody of its classic rock influences, skip this one. There's nothing here you haven't heard before, and you've most likely heard it done better anyways. Dirty Americans could make it big, but they damn sure won't "save" rock 'n' roll.

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