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iTunes Review

Taiwanese-born Canadian indie musician Alex Zhang Hungtai finally bequeaths Badlands, his debut full-length vocal album. Here Hungtai’s creativity culminates in lo-fi experimental post-rockabilly. “Speedway King” opens with a hypnotic mantra of minimally mechanical sounding drums that recall those of the band Suicide. Over these haunting rhythms Hungtai croons in a curious accent with the slippery inflections of a young Elvis Presley. “Horses” follows with similarly plodding rhythms as a ‘50s guitar tone reverberates through a continuous riff while Hungtai’s voice simmers down to sound like a young Roy Orbison singing on a David Lynch soundtrack. Hungtai ingeniously foregoes a guitar solo for a bridge where he instead implements manipulation of the spring in a reverb chamber to create some vintage sounding noise-rock that sounds both menacing and sexy. He whisper-sings in the libidinous “Sweet 17” over more riff repetition creating an atmosphere where those ‘50s juvenile delinquents from Karlheinz Weinberger’s photos run rampant. The serpentine “Hotel” closes with Hungtai returning to his spooky instrumental style.

Customer Reviews

Haunting goodness!

Dirty Beaches: Imagine yourself on a hilltop. That hilltop once was popular with teenagers back in the 1950’s. You are standing there and there is an eerie silence. You are alone and surrounded by a graveyard of vehicles that have been sitting there for over 50 years. Having this in mind, this one spot you are standing on was a not only a popular spot for these youths to hang out, but to play a game of chicken. Remember the movie with James Dean ‘A Rebel Without a Cause’ (1955), which was one of the first movies of the 20th century to recognized teenage rebellion. There is a dramatic scene where there is a game of chicken on the previously described hilltop and results in a death. In a nutshell, chicken is 2 cars racing to a cliff and the object is to not be the first to get out of the car before the car plummets over the hilltop for those that are not familiar with it.
During this time during the 1950’s was pretty much the birth of teenage rebellion and rock and roll. Elvis was blowing up and gaining popularity paving ways for many other musicians to follow in his footsteps.
With this picture painted for you, imagine revisiting a hilltop that was once a hangout spot for rebellious teenagers back in the 1950’s even early 1960’s. Close your eyes and you can hear the echoes of them if you were to listen to Dirty Beaches standing there.
Dirty Beaches is not a band but one person by the name of Alex Zhang Hungtai who is a Taiwan born Canadian drifter. He is obviously very influenced by the whole 1950’s rockabilly scene. His album ‘Badlands’ is haunting and you can hear familiar songs such as Peggy March’s I will Follow Him in A Hundred Highways. It is haunting an eerie. Especially if you imagine you are revisiting a scene like my previous example. A Hundred Highways is my personal favorite track on the Badlands album next to True Blue and Lord Knows Best’.
I saw Dirty Beaches last March in Washington D.C. and to be quite honest, I didn’t know what to think of him at first. You could say I had an impression that it was just a guy with a guitar, a microphone uttering gibberish with a lot of distortion. Something a child would put together if you were to give a child a guitar, a microphone, and an amplifier. However, Dirty Beaches is a little bit more than a bunch of distorted noise. I have an engrained image of going to a hilltop where there was a death scene similar to ‘A Rebel Without a Cause’ when I listen to this album. Especially I am very familiar with such pioneers of Rock-and-Roll like Elvis Presley which is a very thick influence throughout this album.
Overall, I love this album. Some people get it, some people don’t. I feel anyone who appreciates the history of rock and roll, will greatly appreciate Dirty Beaches. Especially if you use the spooky analogy I used with the hilltop.

I'm dying

Play 'Lord Knows Best' at my cremation

Wood Panels, Guitar & Wong Kar Wai

Imagine Wong Kar Wai sitting in a wood panel basment... smoking and playing an electric guitar. Tha's all you need to know... epic win.


Formed: Taiwan

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The project of Alex Zhang Hungtai, Dirty Beaches' spanned low-slung, lo-fi, post-rockabilly to ambient instrumentals. Born in Taiwan, Hungtai moved to Canada at an early age. Starting in 2005, he released a slew of albums, EPs, and cassettes on labels such as Night People and Fixture Records. Hungtai's music is equally familiar-sounding and surreal, mixing a croon worthy of Elvis or Roy Orbison with Suicide-like drum machines and a fondness for found sounds and hypnotic loops. He moved to Zoo Records...
Full Bio
Badlands, Dirty Beaches
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