Mudkiss: The Dustaphonics "Party Girl"
It’s like something from Kerouac’s On The Road - the dank smell of whiskey and stale cigarette smoke curls through the bar, thick and cancerous. It hangs in the witching hour gloom. A woman in stockings moans a tune from across the top of a battered grand piano. She’s sexy and dangerous and mostly every man sober enough to lift his head off the bar is swaying to her hypnotic spell. There are silhouettes of old negroes, sleazy looking men in shabby hats, sunken-eyed junkies - all clanking their bottles and stumbling around in the smog to the ramshackle clatter of the band. In the seventies a musician called Tom Waits became obsessed with this sort of seedy scene. He formed an act around it, and despite (or perhaps because of) the baring of his stylistic arse to the post-hippy, satin shirted glam rock pomp of his day, he found a cult following. The Dustaphonics mix a different musical cocktail than Waits, but it’s a timeless image like his that their music belongs to.
Ok, so this kind of performance can end up a façade, an act – maybe even a barrage of clichés – but The Dustaphonics aren’t meant to be your standard band. ‘Party Girl’, their second album, is a retro party piece. And just feel that swagger. Sludgy, slap-backed guitars moan in smacked-up bliss under the carnal wail of the lead singer, whose voice shudders with flutters of vibrato, sometimes off-pitch but full of heart and guts and voluptuous at all times - every bit the femme fatale characters of the album’s narrative. It’s practically oozing sleaze. Some parts of ‘Party Girl’ sound like they could have come straight from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack – indeed sometimes it’s a little close for comfort (‘Burlesque Queen’ has borrowed heavily from ‘Rumble’ by Link Wray, and ‘Showman Twang Tiki Gods’ wields a distinctly ‘Miserlou’-like riff – although its finale sounds more like an epic Mexican showdown from a Rodriguez flick). In addition to their movie glam, The Dustaphonics provide a whirlwind tour of the 50’s and 60’s – flirting with surf ('burlesque queen', 'eat my dustaphonics'), rhythm and blues (‘I think I’ve had it), garage rock ('the jinx', 'looking at you'), rockabilly ('party girl'), rock & roll ('when you gonna learn'), and the blues ('you gonna wreck my life'). They don’t so much fuse genres as hop from one to the other, although the songwriting manages to remain formulaic throughout. True, this sounds like two fairly shitty features, but The Dustaphonics weld them together into a form where they bring out the best in each other.
Tottering around in a flashy, hedonistic party stupor, this album is wild and dizzy with fun. It captures the hopeless abandon and punk energy of a manic live set perfectly, disturbed only by the occasional sample. It’s also catchy and occasionally offers the frustrating excellence of a chorus that could have been a hit fifty years ago (such as the title track). Nevertheless, these guys are clearly just here to have a good time, and if I ever get a chance to catch them on the live circuit, you’d better know I’m getting on board.