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Dirty & Divine

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Album Review

Dirty & Divine isn't Moonshake's strongest album, if only because main man Dave Callahan seems locked in the same harsh tones and grooves throughout its nine tracks. Relying more than ever on cacophony and noise, the band seems to have created a concept album for the dancefloor based on the sound of grinding gears and industrial noise. Callahan's vocals and rhyme-heavy lyrics will make or break the album for a listener. He appears to be completely uninterested in harmonizing with his guest vocalist, Stereolab's Mary Hansen. Hansen's voice is mostly quite hard to differentiate in the mix, as it's buried deeper than PJ Harvey's background vocals on Eva Luna. With Callahan wailing and whining over the groundwork of decadent, noisy jazz shuffles, the vocals are an acquired taste to be sure. With Margaret Fiedler and Guy Fixsen now long-lost to Laika, the continuation of the sound ethics that duo helped create begins to show signs of weakness. The music is uncannily similar to the music of Laika, only more confrontational and with fewer pop elements. The album's most successful songs are "Cranes" and "Up for Anything." The former's everything and the kitchen-sink vibes and exotic eclecticism make for a suave five minutes, while the latter's Middle Eastern flutes, processed vocals, and deep bass punch create an almost tangible sense of dread. If the lesser tracks never sink to the level of sludge, there is an over-reliance on sirens, sound effects, and dance beats that ultimately drags the album down. Still, there's a certain compelling, dreary charm in the album's buzzy funk dementia. Fans of music that makes a racket will find bliss here. Many others will probably decry the lack of variation as they question why Callahan didn't pass the mic a little more often.

Biography

Formed: 1991 in London, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s

Experimental pop outfit Moonshake was led by Dave Callahan, the one-time frontman of the C-86 group the Wolfhounds; after several years away from the music scene, he resurfaced in early 1991, placing an ad in Melody Maker calling for bandmates. Among those who responded were vocalist Margaret Fiedler, bassist John Frenett, and drummer Michael Rother, and within just four days of their formation, Moonshake...
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