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Dirty Beaches: Impressionist Rock Nostalgia on Worn Cassette

By Kevin F. Mason posted Feb 09, 2011 at 04:46 PM

Do you know the sound of AM rock-and-roll radio when you’re driving through a town more rural than yours? Alex Zhung Hai, the one fella behind Dirty Beaches and its latest digital record Badlands, gives Vancouver’s impressionist take on the American hinterland -- really as viewed through the $.25 telescope at a dingy shoretown.

Dirty Beaches...the name alone conjures up a shoreline spotted with grocery bags that once held bags of chips, sandwiches, and sugary dranks, washed up among the stray sea garb on a beach that you can only reach by bike, where the radio still gets about a breath of signal.

There, you’ll hear a glimmer of Springsteen in the distance on “Horses,” if you happen to be on the dirty beaches in New Jersey.  Hai snags this open sound through his Dick Dale-era electric guitar tremolo and haunted yelps, reminiscent of “State Trooper” from the Boss’ Nebraska.  This is all captured on that worn copy production sound that errrybody lovin’ right now and he’s been perfecting since his first cassette Self Titled CS-22 (Night People).

“Lord Knows Best” samples the first eight bars of Françoise Hardy’s “Voila,” then deviates from the vocal melody with a reverberated baritone that scoops you up with its gruff sincerity.  His line that inspires the pre-chorus is dragged out over four measures and offers an intimacy that reflects his production style: “Anddd youuuu knowwwww jussssssst thaaaat I…doooon’t giiiiive a dammmn… about anyonnnnnne …buuuut youuuu.”

Maybe I’m just trying to tie Hai’s work to the nostalgic ‘50s-diner feeling New Jersey used to have for me; you know, before people automatically thought of Pauly D. and co.  Give “A Hundred Highways” a listen and pick up the sound of Misfits drive-in style punk -- and remember that Glenn Danzig is a New Jersey native.  

He’s now on tour with Bay Area’s fun fun party girl band Dum Dum Girls and La Sera, Katy Goodman from Vivian Girls’ solo project.  Closest stop to da 305 is at the Social in Orlando, March 12th.  

Listen and txt-request Dirty Beaches at 786-30-WVUM-1.





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WVUM, Inc., the licensee of station WVUM-FM, is operated as a non-commercial educational radio station at the University of Miami. The unit has no full-time employees and is not required to have an EEO recruitment program due to its size.