Everyone is Dirty
Dying is Fun
Sometimes, amidst the banjo-pickin’, hand clappin’, and “Hey!” chantin’ choruses (a practice that’s been abused ad nausea and must cease NOW) of modern “indie” rock, I find myself asking, “Whatever happened to ROCK?” And, more specifically, the brand of rock that values melody as well as noise, musicianship as well as looseness; in short, the kind of mysterious alchemy that creates truly memorable rock bands.
My question has been answered by Everyone is Dirty, Oakland’s leading purveyors of off-kilter, hook-laden pop songs that actually rock. This is pop for those who hate mainstream pop, both a return to the blissful 90s when the Pixies and Nirvana made music that mattered, as well as a progression of that sound into something more sweet and sinister.
Their debut LP Dying is Fun is chock full of gems. Every song is memorable, fading into the next one like flipping through the pages of a great book you can’t put down. “Dirtbag,” the lead track, showcases all the band’s strengths. A solid groove, buoyed by Tony Sale’s heavy-yet-tasteful drumming and Sivan Lioncub’s sassy vocals that quickly give way to a wailing electric violin, as if her excitement simply can’t be contained by mere voice alone. At one point, its impossibly high screech sounds exactly like a blood-curling scream.
From there we head into “California,” in which the entire state becomes a drunk, pantless trainwreck. More glorious, noisy violin effects on display here, nicely aided by the electrical acoustic stylings of guitarist Daddio. His sharp and fluid lines also lead the next track, “Meltyface,” which rises phoenix-like from the solid foundation of his sharp strumming into what can only be described as total aural ecstasy. This, as well as “slow” number “Lost Thing,” showcases their compositional skills, while “I’m Okay,” and “I Was Born” prove that the band can rock as hard as the best of them, the latter climaxing in a slow-burner that could induce whiplash.
“Devastate” takes the opposite approach, starting Sabbath-heavy, and then pulling back into a semi-twangy guitar line before settling into Lioncub’s seductive vocals. And closer “Cheesecake II” rips along like a old-school punk, reminding me how much I’ve missed that genre when it’s done well.
Several factors set this band apart from being a mere nostalgia-act. While their energy is all rock, Chris Daddio and Sivan Lioncub’s songwriting shows sophistication throughout. Every song is deftly arranged, adding parts and peeling them away like the layers of an onion, a warped background vocal here, an ethereal string section there. It’s not just verse-chorus-verse, it’s verse-pre-chorus-chorus-2nd chorus-bridge-solo-outro until the song reaches the stratosphere.
Lyrically, too, EID gain depth from the delivery, and though their ROCKness gets the blood pumping, there’s heartbreak coursing through Lioncub’s vocals as she sings deceptively simple lines like “I was just a child” and “Mama don’t leave me all alone” (From “Mama, No!!!”).
As a whole, though, Dying is Fun is most memorable for simply being a great, solid album by a great, solid band. The only other recent rock release that’s thrilled me as much came from another Bay Area local, Ty Segall’s Manipulator. But where Ty rides the crest of the garage-rock wave, Everyone is Dirty leads the way for a whole new Bay Area rock revolution –dirty, yes, but sophisticated, too.