Bozeman, Montana-based indie/garage rock group King Ropes released in January 2016 an album titled Dirt that brings together 10 tracks separated in two sets.
The vision of band members Dave Hollier (vocal, guitar), Konrad Meissner (drums), Dylan Treleven (bass, guitar), Ben Roth (guitar), andAdam Wolcott Smith (guitars, keyboard) is to create deeply expressive songs inspired by both the highs and the lows of the human experience. One gets the impression, very early on, that the lyrics were put together by someone with insights born out of a sometimes very difficult experience. The emotional struggles discussed are both timeless and universal with the band being unafraid of touching on both the beautiful, sweet moments in life with the darker, grittier stuff.
Dynamic and relentless, the grunge flavoured, alternative rock “Dogleg Boy” kicks things off with an infectious energy. Gritty and drawing on raw emotion, it packs quite the punch, hitting listeners with the thickness of the melancholy that drives it and Hollier’s passionate vocals. These steps even more into the spotlight in “Lurch on Sister”, which has been stripped of many of the other layers that define so many of the other numbers in Dirt. There is an interesting contrast between the somewhat cheerful Americana influence and the darkness that underlines the entire number.
Garage rock to its core, “Long Lost Boy” follows the path of an individual who, to fill some void, purposefully and systematically goes looking for trouble. The vocals take on an interesting quality, sounding almost out of sync with the rest of the song, almost like a metaphor for how an individual looking for trouble might feel out of sync with the rest of the population. “She Says/Come On” features drumming that is almost hypnotic. Because choices are at the heart of the lyrics, the drumming can be heard either as a thumping heart fearful of deciding, or of the sometimes traumatic vacuum of that place in our minds that cannot make a decision. This track changes the pace of the album, making for a lasting impression.
The most stripped entry on Dirt is the almost folksy “International Shortwave”, a reflection on a life well led—or not? Hollier cannot decide if, after everything that has happened to him, he is happy or not. This makes for a song poignant both for a young person at the cusp of making life-altering and an old person who is looking back at their life’s path.
The second set of tracks starts with the slow and intense “Shovel and a Pickaxe”, a catchy and relentless number where the guitar particularly shines. The grungy, melancholic “Mandolins and Gasoline” alternates between quiet verses and a loud chorus, a reflection, perhaps, of the ups and down of the relationship with the woman Hollier is singing about.“Low Over Cheyenne” and “She’s a Runner”are smooth at every level, be it vocals, instrumentation, or melody. The latter does not refer to an athlete, but rather to the impulse to chase dreams that, for the most part, never materialise—hence its melancholic nature.
The tracks on this album might seem familiar, but they are still worth a listen. More information about the band is available on both their website and their Facebook page.