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Album Review

The Dub Narcotic Sound System's strongest asset has consistently also been its greatest liability: Calvin Johnson and his deadpan baritone intonations over the Sound System's minimal, rubber-limbed indie-funk grooves. Nowhere is that dichotomy more apparent than on the Bone Dry EP. Recorded in Memphis, TN, at Royal Recording with Willie "Get Down" Brown (who, if the narrative of the EP's hilarious track "Rot Gut" is to be believed, was procured by none other than Memphis soul legend Willie Mitchell), Bone Dry is ostensibly an attempt to stretch outside the basements of DNSS' hometown of Olympia, WA. And, to their credit, the players manage to capture the lived-in flavor of a genuine Memphis studio house band. Here, the outfit often recalls a slightly-less-sexy Booker T. & the MGs. Where previous and subsequent DNSS recordings occasionally feel like insular indie-rock in-jokes, Bone Dry is genuinely and unapologetically funky. It only makes sense, then, that Johnson's moaning vocals sound more awkward here than usual. DNSS' rhythm section — bassist Todd Ranslow and drummer Larry Butler — shines particularly bright, and, in general, Bone Dry is a noble and largely successful experiment in straightforward grooves.


Formed: 1994

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s

The oddball indie-funk collective Dub Narcotic Sound System was spearheaded by vocalist Calvin Johnson, the former frontman of the legendary Beat Happening as well as the founder of the famed K Records label. Named in honor of Johnson's own Olympia, WA-based basement studio Dub Narcotic, the project was begun in 1994 with a rapid-fire series of funk-, rap-, and reggae-influenced singles including "Bite," "Fuck Shit Up," "Booty Run," and "Shake-a-Puddin'"; from the outset Johnson was the group's sole...
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Bone Dry, Dub Narcotic Sound System
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