Dirty Projectors Rise Above

[Dead Oceans; 2007]

Styles: experimental pop, math rock, punk
Others: Black Flag, Xiu Xiu, Grizzly Bear

When I first heard that the new album by David Longstreth and his mussed-up projectors is a rewritten version of Black Flag's Damaged from memory, I was skeptical. How could someone with such creative prowess rehash a defining punk classic, one that's been so thoroughly “done,” stylized, and niched? What I've realized is that it's indeed that very same creative prowess that lends credence to the idea. With a staggering discography on a hardened brick of originality, Longstreth has already proved himself more than capable, so it really comes as no surprise that The Dirty Projectors pulled this appropriation off with such precision and effectiveness.

Sonically, Rise Above is just another healthy dose of what Longstreth does best. Anomalous harmonies, quirky time signatures, and spontaneous rock-outs punctuate the album’s 11 tracks. The record, however, doesn't necessarily standout because of its strange musical style, but because of Longstreth’s ability to meld his personal disposition with the spirit of Damaged, certainly a difficult task. By channeling Black Flag's anger and mixing it with his own eccentric charm, Longstreth creates an original and historically significant amalgamation of sound and fury.

Longstreth (thankfully) didn’t concern himself with the tonalities of his subject matter (i.e., Rise Above doesn't sound like a "punk" album), but instead made careful choices of which songs and lyrics to highlight. Some of the most poignant sections can be found on tracks like “Police Story,” an ear-splitting decree that is the Black Flag version squared, thanks in large part to Grizzly Bear Chris Taylor’s characteristically eerie production. When Longstreth croons “Understand/ We’re fighting a war/ We can’t win/ They hate us/ We hate them,” it’s hard not to shake your head in aggravation at the currently war-ridden world.

Longstreth obviously didn't intend to belittle the original message, but updating Black Flag's outcry against the skateboard-hating pigs with an outcry against the seemingly ubiquitous maladies in the world makes Rise Above much more relevant -- the album's more than just an artistic experiment or nostalgic curiosity. Kudos to Henry Rollins, but more so to David Longstreth -- in this deceptively humble album, Longstreth has concocted a new type of musical protest, one that articulates a continuity between protests and one that's twice as powerful in this particular context.

Although the album doesn't reach the stylistic extremes of glitch masterpiece Getty Address or lo-fi heartbreaker Glad Fact, Rise Above is Longstreth’s most culturally significant work to date. It's a manifesto for the downtrodden, indeed inspired by Longstreth’s childhood love of Damaged, but presented with new cultural resonance when recontexualized for the status quo. So, even if you were in diapers when those hardcore Californians were messing shit up, you can still enjoy the harnessed anger with The Dirty Projector’s latest and greatest.

1. What I See
2. No More
3. Depression
4. Six Pack
5. Thirsty and Miserable
6. Police Story
7. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
8. Spray Paint (The Walls)
9. Room 13
10. Rise Above
11. [Untitled]

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