A Midwestern fuzz rock explosion attack – laced with crushing beauty – like you haven’t experienced in… well, figure it out!
BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS
My life is strange, a continuing to evolve monster, ever bringing good and bad to my door.
See Through Dresses gather around a borrowed rug and a worn couch in my living room, less than 24 hours after I learned of their existence. This is not a hallucination or fever dream; Dresses are a band, not transparent eveningwear for the busy girl about town. The alt-rock indie fuzz four-piece from Omaha, Nebraska, bites chunk out of, kicks and screams at the music of my misspent youth, those glory days of debauchery and no grey hair, just before life and kids thrust adulthood upon me.
STD have ground up the Replacements, Dinosaur Jr., Matthew Sweet, Husker Du and The Lemonheads, throw in the lavish guitar of Japandroids, Sonic Youth, Joy Formidable with the crushing beauty of Joy Division, The Cure and Portishead, molded into a previously unknown, vaguely similar shape to the world and we have See Through Dresses.
Coupling the coy lightness of guitarist Sara Bertuldo’s voice, her tone and delicate vocal power very similar to that God gave Juliana Hatfield as well as Nina Persson of The Cardigans, with a blistering, tinnitus inducing wall of feedback ala Liz Phair. She fingers the noise perfectly from her battle-scabbed 2011 Gibson SG, its nicks and wear making it seem far older than its years. (Being in a rock band does that, right.)
Next to Miss Bertuldo, a Fender Squire grows from the very hands of one Mr. Mathew Carroll, a wizard of sound and fury. Drawing from the approach to the six-string set forth before him by the likes of Lee Ranaldo, The Glenn Branca Guitar Orchestra, Jack White, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and Television’s Richard Lloyd, Carroll thumbs his nose at tradition no, convention in every direction, every turn as he becomes engulfed in his chords, coaxing beauty from the volume, as it grows.
A drape of sound blasts from his amp, covering the crowd in stomp-box flooded wonder. Carroll blows apart the distortion and expectation with the occasional blues leaning firestorm, echoing every chord, shaping it into something mutant, a planned chaos that would make Kurt Cobain blush with pride at his exuberance and love.
See Through Dresses expand their world with every note, beat and rhythm. They easily restrain themselves as a unit when it has merit and need (check out the acoustic work and Mat Carroll’s voice becoming one instrument on the haunting, heartbreaking title track End of days). Lulling the listener into a false sense of security, a rare band that can knock the listener back on his/her heels when they get quieter instead of louder.
Then, on the next turn, bassist Alex Kirts and drummer Nate Van Fleet drive the explosion with unabashed, unapologetic thank-yous to the great fuzz masters of the nineties. The ferrous “Drag Scene” is the story of Clara, an amalgam woman formed by Carroll out of many relationships, it is a song of loss, need and love, a call for a woman to leave and find happiness.
“We definitely love the stuff from the nineties,” Carroll tells me, between pauses, to find just the right words to fill in the blanks, as the recorder runs, picking up everything.
“J. Mascis, Sonic Youth, Blonde Redhead, My Bloody Valentine, Matthew Sweet, we love that all,” he continues. “We wanted to take our influences and play what we hear in our own way.” There is a long difference between flattery through touchstone and straight, no excuse robbery. See Through Dresses are not ones for rock n roll thievery; they use the feedback, sense of adventure and boundary pushing, the sleepiness of shoegaze, to make something to be proud of, to want to show off for love of the music, not to just cut a single and get famous. They are not ripoff artists; they are all artists in the most literal sense of meaning. Sara and Mat paint pictures with their guitars: the distortion waves of color on an endless canvas, each chord a stroke on the landscape; a different tone each time, the guitars making the sky while Van Fleet and Kirts’ rhythm section shake the ground beneath your feet.
See through Dresses are provocateurs in a world where keyboards, banjos, and worn-out 1980s dance beats are considered “genius.” At a time when ego is of more import than substance, it’s good to run across a band that embraces volume, power and bombast over playing a style of music that some so-called tastemaker has deemed cool. It’s as if no one tells these bands that the music most of them create is vapid wastes of time. Will you or I follow the herd? Will I like something because everyone else does?
Not I, sir. I would much rather have See through Dresses than to compliment the Emperor on his beautiful, non-existent robes.
The new EP from See Through Dresses, End of Days, is available now. Listen to it at the group’s BandCamp page.