3 out of 5
Label: Cmptr Stdnts
Produced by: Dustin Rose (recorded by)
Machines versus man; man evolving into machines. There’s some kind of war going on on the expanded version of DROSE’s boy man machine (the original came out in 2013; we have some new songs as well as a previous EP on this version), but it’s hard to tell exactly what that war is about, both lyrically and musically.
The former is mainly due to vocalist Dustin Rose’s delivery: alternating between a U.S. Maple rasp and a high-pitched croon, the emotion behind his vocals – or adamant detachment – is evident, and quite moving, but his delivery is a lot of elongated, loosely annunciated words, allowing only key words and phrases to peek out. The singing style matches the music – which also alternates between moods, and is loosely defined – but it prevents what the songs may or may not be about to come through. Which might not be important, as boy man machine’s herky-jerky flow (whether assessed as a compilation of separate releases or one whole thing) comes across, often, as more of an experience, or experiment, than a cohesive listen. Starting from a clatter of sound, opening tracks emerge with blasts of distortion and a sudden hurried beat, only to suddenly drop out and/or abandon said beat. Labelmates with Big’N, there’s a precedent there of a former home of Big’N: Skin Graft records, and no wave, which is strong with DROSE: songs seem to almost purposefully dodge going anywhere, only for the next track to start it up again.
This isn’t wholly a bad thing, if, again, the album is appreciated as an experience of noise and emotion. That said, the newer tracks (recorded 5 years after the main album) are perhaps the best, bringing Rose’s vocals a bit more to the fore and adding some additional layers beyond a lonely drumbeat and a blast of guitar, while also using initially disparate elements to build into pummeling conclusions. Which suggests this is a good time for this rerelease, if it draws our attention to a band perhaps gearing up to release something new and refined.
boy man machine+ is another good step for a fledgling noise / rock label. The album is arresting while it’s on, if not especially lending itself to any given moment that gets stuck in your head, and DROSE definitely achieves something that’s pretty tough nowadays: they truly sound like their own thing.