First things first: January was a stellar month for new music in Seattle. Damien Jurado released the latest in his series of singer-songwriter master classes in the form of Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son. Benjamin Verdoes (Iska Dhaaf, Mt. St. Helen’s Vietnam Band) put out a quiet, but sterling solo record, The Evil Eye. Even rabble-rousers like Wimps and newcomer Childbirth put out rocking records (Party at the Wrong Time and It’s a Girl!) with songs about ingesting canine medicine and humorous coitus. But amidst a loaded field, there was simply no record that provided as much fun as Dude York’s new LP Dehumanize.
Dude York has brandished its bratty, batty blend of pop and punk around town for years, and Dehumanize serves as the strongest collection of its tunes to date. The album’s aesthetic settles in a place that’s actually significantly less raw than a common Dude York live show, but it doesn’t lose much in the transition. The songs are an assortment ideas found in teen pop love songs that vacillate effortlessly between swooning (“Eighth Grade”) and snarling (“Cannibal”). It’s the type of album where the lyrics on the first track (“Sleep Walk”) can playfully convey affection via movie title references (“500 days of summer later, we’re still in the garden state…”) and then end with a song sporting the chorus “Dehumanize yourself and face to bloodshed” (which also serves as the song’s title). No matter which extreme, the songs bounce with a youthful exuberance.
The vocals delivered by the trio’s frontman Peter Richards stress passion over precision. While he’s no Galen Disston, he’s got a very apt sense of his own voice and manages to make even the notes that sound strained crackle with spirit. Richards takes a very lead-heavy approach to his guitar work for a band with a lone guitarist. The melodic cores of songs like “Idol” arise from his running rock riffs, while bassist Claire England keeps the chord progression running smoothly along. With Richards and England maintaining the melody, drummer Andrew Hall is free to attack his kit. One of the Seattle rock scene’s greatest strengths has long been its allotment of terrific drummers, most of whom lean heavily on technical proficiency and then choose select spots to let loose (see: Death Cab for Cutie’s Jason McGerr or Minus the Bear’s Erin Tate). Hall takes a more punk drummer approach and pretty much lets loose all the time, unleashing machine gun fills constantly, but without ever drawing attention to his playing in any showy way. It's a blissful barrage.
Dehmanize presents Dude York as the eternal malcontent younger sibling of the Seattle music scene, and sometimes it’s more fun to co-conspire in its destructive antics than to hang out at the grown ups’ party.Also check out: