There is more to Dope Body’s new album, “Natural History”, than first meets the ear. Formed in Baltimore in 2008, Dope Body are purveyors of loud, spiky music; it swaggers and sways dangerously, threatening to explode at any time in a display of attitude and aggression. At times minimalist, at others a veritable cacophony of competing sounds, it’s always in your face, poking and prodding at you, insisting that you take notice.
Initially, it all seems pretty basic: filthy guitar and bass, aggressive drums, intoned vocals and slightly rough and ready production. But on closer listening, it’s clear that there are altogether deeper levels to this music. Perhaps, it’s the seamless segue between “Out Of My Mind” and “High Way”; or maybe it’s the guitar effects, which are many and complex; then again it could be the song structures which are more than the usual verse, chorus, verse fare: whatever, this hasn’t just been thrown together mindlessly as the angry reaction to something external; the writing has clearly been worked at, and to good effect: these songs are considered, and not merely delivered.
The almost-reggae of “Twice The Life” is the kind of thing The Clash might have recorded back in the day, and is broken up by a much rockier, heavier chorus. “Road Dog” builds in layers, beginning with just drums, travelling through an off-beat riff to a great chorus; “Powder” – possibly the highlight of the album – has a playful intro which will make you smile, as well as twin guitar harmonies and a chorus underpinned by more exhilarating guitar; “Weird Mirror” begins with what sounds like a strange heartbeat as the rhythms collide with each other before surging along at full speed on another heavy, melodic riff. In fact there is lots of melody amongst all the noise and histrionics; sometimes it’s in plain sight, while other times you have to strain to catch it. There is it again: that apparent contradiction – for what seems initially like simple music there is always much greater complexity. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an album by a group of undisciplined noise-mongers; this is music delivered by musicians who consider and care about what they do. The passion of the band is never in doubt: it’s there in the delivery of the vocals, in the carefully considered guitar and bass effects, in the driving rhythms of the songs. The enthusiasm is infectious.
That being the case “Natural History” won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. For some it will be a little too out of control, a bit too unpredictable. At times it’s rough and ready with a decidedly punk edge, at other times it becomes a real rocker of an album. The production is raw, the instruments unrepentantly loud and the vocals shouted and aggressive. But for anyone who wants that visceral energy combined with songs delivered skilfully but always on Dope Body’s own terms, there is much here to recommend it.