Dirty Fences – Goodbye Love (Greenway Records)
CD / LP / CASS / DL
Out 27 October
New York’s hardest working power punks return with their finest album to date. Louder Than War’s Nathan Whittle checks it out.
In the hyperbole of music releases, rarely do a band live up to the moniker of all-time party rock ‘n’ roll band, but Dirty Fences are no doubt one of the current crop of bands vying for the top spot. Their live shows are an awesome explosion of power-pop punk wrapped up in hijinks and, if they ever reach the dizzying heights of those who influence them, no doubt pyrotechnic mayhem. It’s a sound that they perfectly encapsulated on their previous albums, but this time they’ve upped their game, adding a subtle layer of pop sheen to their rougher and grimier punk edges.
The windmilling blasts of guitar of album opener, All You Need Is A Number, quickly give way to jiving rock ‘n’ roll. Double-tracked vocals bring that power-pop touch over driving rhythms and riffing guitars, setting the sound for the album as a whole. This is The Knack covering The Real Kids in 1977 CBGBs for the next generation. 911 has a melody that feels at the same time totally fresh, yet instantly recognisable with the backing vocals adding an extra touch of sugary sweetness, lifting the song further and converting it into an earworm that embeds itself deep in the mind. They follow up this opening couplet with Dance and title track, Goodbye Love, which keep you bopping as the guitars chug along. Subtle touches and breaks in the music mark fist-punching in the air moments and both songs seem to drop and stop out of the blue, leaving you yearning for more. Dirty Fences never fail to swiftly deliver, bringing the party to the masses. “Do what you got to to get high.” they spout as Dance rollicks along at full throttle. We sure will! Lead single, Teen Angel, is up next. With its jaunty, spikey verses and soaring chorus, it is a song that would have sat perfectly on The Dirtbombs last pop-inflected album had they wanted a stomping floor filler for sweaty dive bars. The side closes with Never Over, the poppiest track of the side, with its Undertones-esque riffs and the band ensuring us that it’s not over.
The second side launches with Blue Screen, an almost XTC new wave slab of pop. It’s clear that Dirty Fences revel in the glorious fun of writing, touring, playing and throughout Goodbye Love they show no shame in wrapping their songs in pure powerpop abandon. They’ve not forgotten where they’ve come from though. Dirty distorted guitars prop up the melodies, a sense of urgency pumping through every track, almost in touching distance of The Descendents’ territory. I Can’t Sleep At Night ups the stakes in terms of gloriously simple catchy blasts of pop punk, before Love For Higher drops in to keep the party rolling. Lifting from The Buzzcocks’ blueprint of tales of late nights and lost loves, the band have a keen ear for melody, one which they push further on the beautiful Four Leaf Clover. The verses groove along, switching and changing rhythms constantly before bringing in their most Cheap Trick-like chorus. A stadium rock style finish drops expertly into the dancey Message From Anyone before One More Step (featuring Sheer Mag’s Christina Halladay) hails in a final lighter-in-the-air call and response breakup ballad. Unexpected, yet totally welcome.
On Goodbye Love, Dirty Fences have really pushed their sound within the confines of their powerpop punk boundaries and written their best album yet.