It takes balls to go against the once familiar grain. To take a classic slice of the niche ridden, often stagnating US hardcore scene and change the context of it is brave at minimum.
David Longstreth, the main creative force behind Dirty Projectors, has done exactly this with album number six. A songwriter and busily prolific man, who cuts no corners and responds evasively to media perception: “I’m Gemini, brown eyes, brown hair, about six feet three inches. My music is loud and kind of unruly. Detail-oriented, but also reflects how I enjoy thinking about the bigger picture, like long walks in the woods.”
Taking ‘Damaged’, Black Flag’s seminal 1981 album, and covering it for today’s more expansive and open minded music fans’ attention, I probe as to why he attempted such a great mission. “I didn’t cover ‘Damaged’. I rewrote the album from what I remembered of it in my head,” states David. “I have no idea why I did it — maybe because it was there!” he waves off.
Although these details are coincidental, it seems like a great feat; to take an album that you haven’t listened to in 10 years or so and completely rework it from memory is a huge task. In reality, he probably caned the album to the maximum, although he’s apparently not into Hardcore music: “I did cane it — I really caned it, you got it!” replies David sarcastically. “I’m not really a fan of hardcore music much, I do like the Bad Brains though,” he tells.
The angry, pounding riffage is converted to a more emotive, rhythmic song structure, but a constant juxtaposition remains throughout; the lyrics are sung softly, still containing the cagey, irritated and politically charged lyrics. From the classic ‘Police Story’, toned down and soft with its abrasive vocals in tact, or the deconstructed drone of the once punchy ‘Thirsty And Miserable’, Longstreth seems to dig opposites. He surely came up against the purists for daring to change the rulebook. “Indifference isn’t the word for it brother,” he confirms.
My music is loud and kind of unruly./blockquote>
The album itself is like a mixture of West African rhythms, tortured folk and aggressive math rock; singalong ‘Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie’ has been bent into a more longing and dreamy context, one of melancholy compared to the angry, spiteful original. Does he aim to take the DIY aesthetic, and apply it less frantically? Carefully, David replies: “It’s not so much the aesthetic as the phylogeny, I’d suppose,” hinting towards the evolution of culture, rather than being stuck in history, forever trying to recreate a moment.
Recorded with Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, Longstreth’s deep, intense music is transposed onto the live stage, fragrantly sombre and absorbing, with the help of Amber Deradoorian, Brian McComber and Amber Coffman to bring sounds to life. Unconcerned with meaning, message and representation, Longstreth is the ultimate mad professor, concocting his own version of musical dialogues and creating by his own terms. “Culinary piping, indeed,” he cryptically replies when quizzed about the next release, not wanting to give too much away. Rest assured though, brothers, that it’ll probably be another busy year for the Dirty Projectors, and it won’t be long before we hear from David again.