Brighton is an intoxicating city. With hilly and quaint market streets offering a smorgasbord of vintage shops and bars, daytrippers from London are treated to its famous pier and expansive sea views; seagulls abound. But as is present in most of England, there’s a neurotic energy that runs through daily life, an expectation to be socially respectable but also on your toes. The privatization of public services, conservative media’s unashamed xenophobia, and the drama of Brexit are just some of the elements contributing to the sense of hopelessness felt by middle to lower-class liberals. On their stellar debut, The Great Regression, Brighton five-piece DITZ come out hard and dark. They deliver an intense and sonically invigorating assault on the superficial politeness that masks systemic inequality while exploring the elements of personhood that cast some from the mainstream.
Singer Cal Francis wrote that the track “I Am Kate Moss” is about “the separation between your visual and personal identities, particularly within the context of masculinity and femininity”. This separation of mind and body comes across on the album’s ten tracks, which balance cerebral spoken word and somatic song structures via familiar rock riffs. With cues from Foals and Ireland’s Gilla Band, DITZ place themselves on post-punk’s heavier, metal side. Their riffs are dark and simple, in the vein of Korn or Slipknot, but with artistic sensibilities more in line with Deftones and At the Drive-In.
Francis delivers his lyrics in a sometimes deadpan, sometimes impassioned style, but they never take over the mix. Instead, they lie under the thick blanket of raucous music. You can put the album on and rock out without worrying about following the subtext there, the vocals becoming a worldless instrument like the others. Simple musical phrases are pieced together in an elaborate and attention-catching manner, stop-starts decorated with visual guitar sounds, and manic drum fills never let your ears get bored.
Opener “Clocks” is a tapestry of frantic, arpeggiated guitars, jackhammer fills, and sludgy bass. Francis declares, then admits, then pleads, “I don’t got the time.” “Ded Wurst” is a danceable, high-pressure number with scratchy guitars rhythmically playing against hi-hats following a steady four-four. The quiet-loud dynamic is made remarkable by a big snare sound jumping up from the mix. “The Summer of the Shark” has a snazzy, somewhat gangster vibe. There’s a message about the shelf-life of tragedies on the news; “9/11 killed the Summer of the Shark … now I know why Elvis shot TVs”, the vocals spit, angry at a media that preys on fear. “I know we all bleed,” goes the chorus between bursts of a big, rudimentary riff.
DITZ employ jerky time signatures and palm-muted guitars on the aforementioned “I Am Kate Moss”. The phrase “I’ve got a striking figure” is repeated before bursts of jangly guitars shred. Francis contemplates aging on “Instinct” with “when will the flowers spring from my chest?” a poetic nod to gender, delivered in a voice that sounds sinister in its nonchalance. Some songs don’t exactly reach similar heights. “Teeth” and “hehe” are by no means lackluster. Rather, they lack the luster of “Three” in its building riffage and closing track “No Thanks, I’m Full” in its clever verses (“I feel naked when I put myself out there, I also feel naked when I’ve got no clothes on”) and catchy chorus that eventually breaks into a five-minute instrumental firework finale.
Not over nor under-produced, The Great Regression has a dirty but clean sound that makes it easier to listen to than the volume-war brick walling of contemporaries. Its cryptic lyrics and heavy subject matter may not be for some, but thanks to Francis’ characterized vocals, they become, at times, indistinct from the music. This album has a sense of urgency and visceral intensity, and DITZ rarely bore with their snotty, twisted, and deadly playing.