Release Date: May 22, 2012
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock
Dope Body is a Baltimore four-piece with a slew of low, sludgy, heavy, depressed grunge anthems under its belt. For all these negative adjectives, Natural History is an invigorating listen, which may say as much about today as it does about the band. When frontman Andrew Laumman quips, “I’m just talking shit,” after the rousing chorus of “Do what you wanna do / See what you wanna see / Go where you wanna go” (“Road Dog”), you can’t help but chuckle.
On their debut album, Nupping, Dope Body hit loft-show paydirt by splicing noise-rock with melodies salvaged from the junkyard of 1990s FM radio. That may sound like an unpalatable combo, but the Baltimore four-piece used each genre to subvert the other's worst tendencies. A swatch of Red Hot Chili Peppers homage could complicate the menace from a song stacked with splintering feedback.
Dope BodyNatural History[Drag City; 2012]By Malcolm Martin; June 6, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIf you are searching for an album to redefine everything you know about production tricks and pretty composition, you can stop reading now. But if you're looking for an album that packs attitude by the ton, you are in the perfect place. On the third proper full-length from Baltimore quartet Dope Body, we're given nine songs that converge as a celebration of fun in its most savage, nihilistic form.
Dope Body are several different things on their sophomore album and Drag City debut, Natural History, few of which make themselves explicitly stated. The Baltimore band of bruisers is either an extremely creatively deranged nu-metal band (wait, don't leave!), or a warped satire of said genre and its uber-masculine contemporaries. Bring the lens out a bit and it's apparent that they're of a class with sludge merchants like Pissed Jeans, descendents of the almighty Jesus Lizard, kindred spirits with the anarchic alt-metal of Mike Patton, all while occasionally sounding like Battles had that band absorbed a majority share of influence from drummer John Stanier's former band Helmet rather than Ian Williams' Don Caballero.
Describing Baltimore’s Dope Body, writers tend to use masculine adjectives, like “testosterone,” “balls,” “muscle,” “brawn,” and “aggressive. ” The band itself poses its approach against the scene Baltimore is most known for in the last decade, the more whimsical and absurd electronic and dance prone Wham City collective. Not that Dope Body doesn’t have absurd elements, but the band employs a more traditional rock set up of bass, drums, guitar, and vocals, trying, as they say, to reclaim the glory of basement hardcore shows, with sweaty pits (meant in two sense) from a different kind of dancing.
If I could choose one band to re-soundtrack the boneheaded early-90s Pauly Shore vehicle, Encino Man, it would have to be Baltimore’s Dope Body. Theirs is a sound redolent of that time period and its ethos as I like to re-imagine it, all waking to empty pizza boxes and the promise of a new day. Dope Body’s first album, 2011’s Nupping, was a pummeling synthesis of 90s aggro-rock, exuding the kind of funky aggression that made the early work of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine so cathartic and fun.
Dope Body's second album finds the Baltimore quartet doing the kind of thing that's both thoroughly expected -- young 21st century band plays around in decades' worth of noise possibilities, with particular focus on '80s indie efforts -- and gratifying, in that at their best the group puts all the pieces together pretty damn well. The opening "Shook" acts as a fine statement of intent in that regard, starting with what appear to be distant chimes as well as cut-up scraggly and big slow drums, even while singer Andrew Laumann acts more as a calm pronouncer of words than a shouting or shrieking dervish. But if they're starting to resemble anyone in particular, it's almost where the late lamented Brainiac left off, combining that band's ear for compressed, twisted hooks with a thorough appreciation of all that noise legacy.
Between the plodding stop-and-go riffs and frontman Andrew Laumann’s Phil Anselmo-style grunts, much is heavy about Baltimore residents Dope Body. And on the quartet’s latest full-length, the Drag City debut Natural History, they improve just about every facet of last year’s Nupping, juxtaposing tighter musicianship and a sleeker ear for melody while retaining the intensity that’s made them an archetype for sweaty-basement fuzz. The five-minute second track “Road Dog”, near the end, takes a tangential trip to tropical-punk where delayed guitars offer a literal change of pace after the bracing first passages.
There’s not much of a difference between a menacing smile and a goofy grin. How much separates Jack Nicholson’s terrifying mug sticking through a crack in the door in The Shining and that creepy kid from Fred: The Movie? Exuberance, whether it’s joyful or crazed, will often look the same way: eyes widening, teeth glistening, cheeks stretching, forehead crinkling, tongue wagging. Dope Body, a fearsome art-sludge foursome from Baltimore, understands this better than any band in recent memory.