Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dentists Appreciation

This is the part of the article where I make the stupidly obvious pun about the people who clean teeth and then segue into some bit about how cool the band are. Right now, however, the sheer simple understated elegance and jangly indie pop perfection of the band in question is superseding any desire I had to dig my grave just a little bit deeper in Clichéville's cemetery. I remember when J and I would DJ on KWUR we'd generally have a few things picked out to play and then comb the station's stacks for anything that looked like it could be interesting, absurd, or in the case of the Dentists' "Powdered Lobster Fiasco" album, just a little bit funny and ridiculous (I guess that falls under absurd, eh? I also guess I have a backspace key and could just erase it and come up with some other arbritrary criteria for selecting arbitrary albums, but now that I've gone this far there's not much point).

Occasionally we'd marvel in the quality of our choices, but for the most part they were duds (Bobgoblin, anyone?). I remember thinking the song we chose off of the Dentists album, which I don't recall the name of...probably a track 3 or 4,was pretty decent. Seeing as this was either jr or sr year of college I was a fiend for neo-psychedelia of the mainstream indie rock variety (E6 collective, BJM, Dandy Warhols, Rainbow Quartz, etc) and chances are I probably just shrugged this song off as too "standard" and not swirly or experimental enough, though if it was late enough into the first semester of sr year I could have just gotten into my indie pop/twee phase after Kathy turned me on to Tiger Trap and Heavenly, in which case the Dentists were not cutesy enough. Long story short, I was an idiot, incapable of recognizing a band that perfectly bridges the gap between my two polar obsessions of the time.

A year later I downloaded "You and Your Bloody Oranges," the Dentists' 1985 EP. Between having first played that one unrememberable song and being linked to this other album by some website, I had completely forgotten about having heard them before (and later remembered while browsing allmusic for other albums of theirs), but had found a new instant obsession. The Dentists' brand of pop is so jangly, effortless, urgent, somber, British, and esoteric that they're the kind of band you can only imagine ever existed in black-and-white. You know, like you watch old documentaries and realize that the footage is lacking in color vibrancy because of technological limitation, but the image is burned in your mind with the color notably, and importantly, absent. Only Danny will understand this, but I think the Dentists, despite their non-use of electronics and synthesizers, kind of convey "that feeling".

I'd listen to this EP over and over again thinking about how great it would be to see this band live in their heyday, but the scene in my mind was always desaturated (in the Photoshop sense of the word). Thinking of bands in this way adds to their mystique, which is also magnified by the pops and hisses of the 12" that was used to transfer the songs to mp3. Not to mention the entire EP exudes perfection from start to finish, from the songs themselves to the song titles to the title and artwork of the EP. For a sample, listen to the bassline on "Where's My Chicken, You Bastard" and look at the cover:


The songs are so perfectly amateurish and the guitar tones so reluctant and reserved that this could only have been created exactly when the Dentists created it. I don't mean that as some philosophical brainteaser, I mean that chronologically the Dentists have their dedicated slot in musical history. Their sound is too modern to have been produced in the 60s or 70s and the themes and tones are too resigned to exist on an album of the late 80s or 90s. By no means an insult, the Dentists could not have created this record without post-punk or early 80s indie rock having preceded them. Equally Magazine and R.E.M., Dream Syndicate and Smiths, but sounding like no one else, the Dentists are what every band tries to be but so few manage not to royally fuck up.

Thanks to Danny I now have a digital copy of their first full-length, "Some People Are On the Pitch, They Think It's Over Now". When Danny told me he had found this I pretended to be an asshole about it and snidely remarked that I had the LP like it was no big deal, but seriously I had been looking for this in a digital format for the past two years. Thanks, dude! I'm listening to it now and it's got a lot of the same qualities that made their EP so great which is fitting since this album came out before the other one did. It's so bizarre to think that so many bands peak with their early material and our friends the Dentists are no exception. I may like "Oranges" a bit more but seriously both releases are pretty phenomenal. One look at the album cover for "Pitch" completely squashes my theory about only shitty bands putting themselves on jacket covers:

How could this band not be cool?

Check it out here: http://best-keptsecrets.blogspot.com/search/label/Dentists

4 comments:

J said...

nothing like getting either a good music recommendation or a good snide remark from garz!

Eric said...

Man if only that first song had been really terrible we could have called it the powdered lobster fiasco fiasco.

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Anonymous said...

Hi,

is there any chance that you can upload the mentioned "you and your bloody oranges" ep? That would be fantastic.

Cheers