Album Review: Dope Body – Natural History




Between the plodding stop-and-go riffs and frontman Andrew Laumann’s Phil Anselmo-style grunts, much is heavy about Baltimore residents Dope Body. And on the quartet’s latest full-length, the Drag City debut Natural History, they improve just about every facet of last year’s Nupping, juxtaposing tighter musicianship and a sleeker ear for melody while retaining the intensity that’s made them an archetype for sweaty-basement fuzz.

The five-minute second track “Road Dog”, near the end, takes a tangential trip to tropical-punk where delayed guitars offer a literal change of pace after the bracing first passages. Two numbers later, “Twice the Life” whips itself into a frenetic groove, as squawking polyrhythms and jagged riffs erupt into something at once subsuming and cathartic. Given moments like those, it’s certain that Dope Body are onto something out-of-character, even as John Jones’s bass still rumbles apocalyptically and David Jacober files rapid-fire drum fills evocative of Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier.

For some bands, being noisy and doused in distortion is an excuse to not write clearly structured songs. Fortunately, that school of thought is not one Dope Body subject themselves to. While there’s still no reason to call these guys accessible, there are moments here, including ones on “Lazy Slave” and “Weird Mirror”, where they flash a punchy hook or two that could serve, say, a Frisco garage-rock group in spades. However, when axman Zach Utz rips quick pre-verse freak-outs, or when Laumann belts out harrowing gargles like you’d expect the mescaline-induced beasts from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to, it’s clear Dope Body get their kicks out of pigfucking around with arrhythmia and cranking stacks to 11; accessibility doesn’t pertain to their mission, and that’s just fine. Amalgamations like these, all booming and feral, have plenty of merit, too.

Essential Tracks: “Lazy Slave” and “Weird Mirror”