Black Dresses

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Wasteisolation (2018), 7/10
Thank You (2019), 5/10
Love And Affection For Stupid Little Bitches (2019), 5/10
Peaceful as Hell (2020), 6.5/10
Forever in Your Heart (2021), 6/10
Forget Your Own Face (2022), 5/10 (mini)

Black Dresses, the Canadian female duo of Ada Rook and Devi McCallion, were a sort of Ween for the age of glitch electronica. Wasteisolation (2018) contains miniatures of pop songs over massive beats and heavy riffs. The panzer power-pop of Doorway is their manifesto. If Go Inside mocks the vocal harmonies of the Merseybeat era, and the catchy Wiggle toys with girls-group languor, and Tell Me How U Feel undoes the genre of the dreamy ballad, and Runner turns synth-pop upside down with galactic sounds, Legacy erupts riot-grrrl angst amid noise of broken plates. On the other hand, songs like the rap-tinged Eternal Nausea sound like robotic cabaret skits.

The production of the four-song EP Hell is Real (2018) is even louder and harder. Hence the abrasive, pounding and angry U Don't Know and the demented singalong of Hell is Real coupled with acrobatic dance beats.

Much of that primal energy has disappeared on Thank You (2019), a far cry from the creative merry-go-round of the debut. Most songs are half-baked and sometimes predictable, and generally lightweight compared with a year earlier. Even the tensest numbers (Death/ Bad Girl, Theres Nothing Here Worth Dying For) sound like leftovers. The frenzied techno Look Away is the dance number du jour, and the catchy refrain of Thru The Void is their shot at mainstream pop. Best is perhaps Wheel Of Fortune, which sounds like a pop version of Nine Inch Nails.

Love And Affection For Stupid Little Bitches (2019) boasts the punk fury of Static and Mindcrushed (less furious, more catchy) but in general the atmosphere is toned down quite a bit, and the result are the silly singalongs Hertz and Cartoon Network as well as the romantic pop ballads Bloom and My Heart Beats Out Of Time, pieces that approach the traditional song format. Mutations is the heavily distorted and tribal peak of the album, and is followed by the psychotic mayhem of Drool: there's a great EP hiding inside this album, but the temptation of mainstream pop seems too hard to resist.

The four-song EP Dreams Come True (2019) contains remixes.

Despite a few lame ballads (like Left Arm Of Life and Creep You), Peaceful as Hell (2020) returned to their massive beats (notably the terrifying bombardment of Beautiful Friendship) and twisted arrangements (Im A Freak Cuz Im Always Freaked Out) amid demented singalongs (Damage Suppressor), cubistic raps (Angel Hair) and mock-anthemic ditties (Please Be Nice). The electronic background is dirty, ugly and abrasive like on the first album. Witness the dissolution in acid of the otherwise melodic and naive Scared 2 Death. Mirror Girl sounds like the the Go-Go's performing in a junkyard. These two songs along restore their credentials as avant-riot grrrrls. There is enough irreverent fun, infectious melody and propulsive rhythms to compensate for the missteps of the previous albums.

Forever in Your Heart (2021) is a rather derivative album, almost a tribute to Nine Inch Nails, and not to the best season of NIN. It's an awkward kind of industrial-metal contaminated by bedroom-pop. Nonetheless, it contains a few gems of their repertory. Peacesign (and less successfully Gone In An Instant) weds that brutal sound with a catchy refrain. Standout Heaven pushes beyond that hybrid with a pleasant dance beat and a lullaby-like chorus. Most songs rely on distorted polyrhythmic bombardments that may have an impact on the generation that never heard NIN, but are otherwise dejavu and amateurish. Perfect Teeth is perhaps the best imitation of the original. And songs like Silver Bells sound like incomplete attempts at an NIN sound fronted by a decadent cabaret singer. The influence of the bedroom-pop of so many singer-songwriters is evident in the surreal Tiny Ball and in the agonizing Waiting42moro, two songs that avoid that cliche'. Meanwhile, We'll Figure It Out (the second standout) falls halfway between punkish voodoobilly and existential dance-punk. The album contains a handful of great additions to their canon, but too much filler. An EP would have been a more honest proposition.

The eight songs of the 20-minute mini-album Forget Your Own Face (2022) feel like an attemp to expand the arrangements. Songs like Let's Be and Money Makes you Stupid become unpredictable and insane creatures. The more expansive effects provide more adequate support to the theatrical element of the singing, particularly in No Normal.

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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