“The Dirt Tracks” – The Dirt Tracks

4 stars (out of 5)

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The Dirt TracksSo, what is it then?  It’s indie Jim, but not as we know it.  The Dirt Tracks is a Spanish band, writing and performing in English; you might have heard of them during their UK tour earlier this year and following the release of their third single “Kaleidoscope”.  You might have seen some very lazy comparisons with a certain band from Oxford, but I’m not having any of that; there are many influences on show here and the “R” band is only one of those.  What the band does very successfully is to pull together influences from a wide range of sources and eras and blend them with their own ideas to create sounds which are very definitely The Dirt Tracks.

The Dirt Tracks line-up is almost a traditional rock/indie five-piece with the traditional keyboard being replaced by a couple of samplers providing beats and, well, samples.  The combination of two guitars, melodic basslines and samplers allows the band to create a huge variety of textures and dynamics throughout the album.  The construction of the songs and the quality of the playing are superb throughout the album and the band’s use of vocal harmonies is original and highly effective.

The opening track, “All Paths Cross”, is a perfect example of this, fading in with a string and keyboard sample before the lead vocal and then percussion build up layers of sound for nearly two minutes before breaking into the body of the song.  And you get a reference to Pink Floyd’s “Breathe (In the Air)” which has to be intentional.  This is followed by the brilliant but disorientating “Kaleidoscope”, which we reviewed as a single earlier this year.  “Bit Train” is driven along by a dirty and distorted two-guitar riff which is closer to the Black Crowes than British indie and  “Bloop” features two guitars and bass interweaving melody lines under a powerful vocal before morphing into a heavy metal break and several changes of tempo; it sounds great here, but it’s even better live.  “Midline” is an interesting blend of indie and funk with and a lyric about escaping from the mundane world.  Santiago Coma’s high tenor on this track vocal works perfectly with the guitar arrangements to create a relentless, driving feel which mirrors the theme of a life being forced down a certain predetermined track and the escape from that track.

Astroblender” and “Pulse” are perfect examples of the way the band use their influences; the former breaks down into a guitar solo and choral section which wouldn’t sound out of place on the first Queen album, while the latter is pure Depeche Mode.  “Up” is an atmospheric instrumental interlude leading into the sparse arrangement of “Unchanged”, which brings me to the only song that I don’t like on the album.  “Self-Terrorism Manual” has a lo-fi production and, for me, the vocal just doesn’t work on the first two verses.  Things improve after that, but I think the album would have been better without this song.  The final song, “Another Way (to the Other Side)” takes the album out on a high with big guitars, vocals and harmonies.

There’s no doubt that The Dirt Tracks are something special; the band mixes up British indie with psychedelia, hard rock, samples and beats with great songs, innovative arrangements and a huge amount of energy.  This is a very good debut album and it’s in my top five so far this year.

Physical release Monday September 30.