The concert posters that are left are mostly in tatters, but a few of them you can still read: "Benefit, seven bands, 50 cents."
So many memories. Train tracks on long summer evenings, walking endlessly toward nowhere. Too young to work, scraping up bits of change. Out-of-tune guitars and beer-soaked circle pits. Shoulder tapping and watching all the girls go for older guys. Ceaseless angst and that one pair of ragged blue shorts. God, I wouldn't trade them for the world. Eventually though, I moved on, as we often do.
And though his particular memories no doubt vary, Dave Longstreth, the mad scientist behind Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors, came up the same sort of way. I say this because Longstreth's latest, Rise Above—a concept album recreating Black Flag's Damaged completely from memory—works like a time machine. It takes me back to those days of restless youth more vividly than digging up the old records I listened to at the time.
Contextually speaking, some tracks play thematically like covers, while others touch on the moment and moods of the time and place. It's these fond remembrances that add heart to the band's cerebral sound. There are so many shared, perhaps universal, moments of teenage rebellion, ranging from the hopeless ("There's no girls/There's no girls that want to touch me/Depression's gonna kill me"), to the beaten ("The store closes at two/There's not enough to last/Thirsty and miserable"), to the joyous ("I know it'll be okay/I got a six pack of beer").
Over planky, jagged finger picking, these vocals are delivered in fluttering, multi-tiered, interwoven male-female harmonies. Volumes perk and shift at strange intervals. It might sound crazy, but—especially live—it works. There's a twisted, heavy math to Dirty Projectors' compositions that paradoxically straddles a loose airiness to supreme effect, which I suppose is what happens when a kid who grew up on punk heads off to study music at Yale.