This is what happens when you try to burn through about 1000 CDs that came out in ’03 starting around Christmas: you are behind the curve. But better late than never (I’ll be saying that a lot over the next few weeks).
Dressy Bessy’s self-titled CD that came out in August is so cool my ears are frozen. Harder than the band’s earlier garage-pop (as collected on the very listenable Little Music: Singles 1997-2002), singer/songwriter/guitarist Tammy Ealom’s dry-but-sweet alto vocals are a nice distillation of Liz Phair and Papas Fritas’ Shivika Asthana, and bolstered by Ealom’s boyfriend, Apples in Stereo lead guitarist John Hill, the album is still catchy and tuneful, but rocks hard enough to transcend the “pop” sobriquet.
“Just One More” explodes out of the speakers like the best Throwing Muses song you’ve never heard (along the lines of “Not Too Soon”): simple but perfect, slightly distorted guitars pounded with punkish authority. “The Things That You Say That You Do” slows down the instrumental attack into the chunky range – I love Ealom’s glissando at the end of key chorus and verse phrases, which nicely presages the same melody figure in extended form at the heart of the chorus. This is a confident songwriter coming into her own.
Though not directly imitative, “This May Hurt (a little)” remind me of the great riff-rock of the Godfathers in the ’80s – remember the classic “Birth, School, Work, Death”? – this one conjures a similar drive and feel, especially in the guitar and great chorus.
“Georgie Blue” is more thrashy and grungy, a la Veruca Salt, in fact Dressy Bessy fits in more with the Chicago girl-rock sound than their native Denver. Back to an alternately chunky and watery Muses-like sound for “Girl, You Shout!” “Better Luck” reverts to the original NY-punk simplicity and intensity of early Blondie or even the Ramones and wouldn’t be out of place on a Hives record. “Tidy” ends one of the more consistent rock CDs of the year in high style – a great bookend to the opener “Just Once More.” Love it.