Does one need more than one Dirty 3 album? I
ask this question here, rhetorically, because it is never a
question that i ask myself as i go about my life. There are
days when Ocean Songs is just a perfect fit, and
days when Whatever You Love
You Are describes the general mood. I can't quite
put those moods into words, but i can tell a difference.
And, like all Dirty 3 albums, She Has No Strongs Apollo
carries a mood. It moves forward under methodical rhythms and
soaring violin that propel the listener to a certain mood. An
inarticulable mood perhaps, but a mood nonetheless.
So maybe it is less that individual Dirty 3 albums invoke a
mood, but rather they can get you from Mood A (whatever you
happen to be experiencing that day) to Mood D (which is a sort
of melancholy calm that is reflective and yet ready for anything).
Okay, that said, i think that you do need more than one Dirty
3 album. You need all of them, really, because this is passionate
expressive music of a type that is rarely seen. I liken what
the Dirty 3 do as being closer to jazz than to rock music. These
songs don't have choruses and verses, rather they ebb and flow
and grow and breathe in a way that is almost organic. I often
find myself listening to Dirty 3, and a particular solo seems
as if it is the only natural thing that can come after a particual
riff, or guitar passage, or whatever. It all just fits together
That said, let me help those of us who are new to the class
to catch up. Dirty 3 are a three-piece: Warren Ellis on violin,
Mick Turner on Guitar, and Jim White on drums. (All of them
play with lots of other bands too, but let's just ignore that
for now.) There are no vocals. The three musicians are all masters
of their various instruments, and they play with that sort of
subconscious fluidity that a long time together will develop
in a band.
Dirty 3 songs tend to be long meandering affairs: six minutes
is about average. During that time the music will grow and change
in ways that, although seeming only natural, will astound you
if you think about it. The glory of The Dirty 3's music is not
in how their songs start out, not in how they end, but in the
long journey between the two places.
There are two songs on this album that stand out to me, after
repeated listens. Which is not to say that the other 5 songs
are weak or bad, just that they all fit perfectly well within
the violin-guitar-drums world of The Dirty 3, and thus need
no further explanation. The two exceptions are Long Way To
Go With No Punch and Rude (And Then Some Slight Return).
Long Way To Go With No Punch is perhaps the most classical
song they have ever done. It consists mostly of Ellis's mournful
violin combined some tinkling keys (likewise played by Ellis)
and a slow arpeggio from Turner. White occasionally adds some
subtle cymbal crashes and low bass drum hits. This song is subtle
and soft and beautiful. Really well done.
If Ellis shines on Long Way To Go With No Punch, then
Rude (And Then Some Slight Return) is Tuner's chance
to shine. This song features, and i swear i am not making this
up, a power rock guitar solo. No kidding. There you are, at
the end of a nice Dirty 3 album, listening along and enjoying
life, when suddenly Mick Turner stomps on his overdrive pedal
and the guitar wails and screams a shout of rage and frustration
(presumably at the normally stately progression at which it
is forced to move). Shocking, really. And brilliant -- totally
unexpected and still well executed.
So you see, even though much of The Dirty 3's music has a certain
sameness to it, they are still growing, experimenting, trying
to expand their horizons. I have a lot of respect for that.
One of the songs that does not feature different instrumentation
and which i do really enjoy is No Stranger Than That,
the middle of which is full of a great fast-paced violin section.
Ellis is sawing away like crazy, and Turner and White have to
hurry to keep up. It is well done.
One final note: the recording on this album is exquisite. It
is produced by someone known as F.Lor, and i have no idea who
that is. At any rate, whoever Dirty 3 have worked with for their
past 4 releases has done a wonderful job of balancing the disparate
elements of their sound. Drums don't overpower, nor are they
lost in the mix. Violin leads sometimes, and follows guitar
other times. Guitar grinds away, but only swells to the forefront
of the sound when such a swelling is necessary. Dirty 3 releases
have become wonderful exercises in recording balance.
Overall, this is another fine album from a singular band. There
isn't much else out there like this, and i highly encourage
everyone to give them a listen. After all, we could all probably
use a little more Mood D in our lives....