The Dirty Streets, Movements: Heading for the Wonder

Usually, the thing with heavy records is how much better they sound on headphones; how much more deeply an album can be experienced by kind of sequestering yourself with it. That’s not the case with Movements, the 2011 album from youngin’ Memphis trio The Dirty Streets. In fact, I’ve found that the 10-song outing actually loses something when taken on that way, and that with tones so open and such a sense of space in the recording, it’s more boombox than desktop – made to be heard outside. More than anything I’ve heard in a while, Movements makes me long for summer. Its energy is born of both the band’s youth and their beginning the process of sorting out their sound, but its energy is infectious most of all, and as guitarist/vocalist Justin Toland, bassist Thomas Storz and drummer Andrew Denham lay down classic-styled boogie and heavy rock – Grand Funk, Humble Pie, but most of all, Blue Cheer – they present their homage with an air of freshness that can’t be faked. The tracks included here are varied in mood, consistent in tone, and each serves a purpose as part of the whole, which divides itself into vinyl sides even for the gatefold digi-sleeve CD version of the record, released by Good for Nothing Records.

Newer school semi-psych hipster jangle à la The Black Keys is given a much-needed injection of soul, and though Toland’s vocals are so reminiscent at times of OutsideInside-era Dickie Peterson it’s distracting, the preaching he’s able to put into “Felt,” “Tryin’ too Hard” and opener “Broke as a Man Can Be” does a lot of work in making those songs as memorable as they are. The Blue Cheer comparison will be obvious though to anyone who’s heard the legendary heavy rock forebears’ most essential works, and it comes out particularly on second cut “Cloud of Strange,” on which Denham’s bass drum punctuates the start-stop verse riff and the groove of the chorus is full-on summer of ’68. The Dirty Streets make it an element of their own, though, and Toland doesn’t sound like he’s posturing as he matches his own guitar pulls in the “Cloud of Strange” chorus or rides Storz’s excellent bassline on “Felt.” Each of Movements’ two sides has its highlight cuts and its album tracks – another instance of rock traditionalism on the part of The Dirty Streets; this is clearly an LP of songs in the vein of the formative records of proto-heaviness – and “Felt” is one a born deep cut, but Denham’s mini-solo and the airy guitar leads it introduces enhance the blues-style sense of flow and the overall casual nature of the album. More than anything else, that would seem to be what makes Movements a Southern heavy rock album – it sounds hot and humid, and that continues through the single-worthy groove of “Fight You,” with more high-grade call and response between Toland and his instrument amid the strong rhythmic foundation provided by Storz and Denham.

Although they’re young, and situating themselves in a style of music in which the effectiveness of a trio is dependent largely on the chemistry between players, The Dirty Streets confront that expectation head on and ultimately come out on top of any conflict that might be imagined. “It’s About Time” is solid funk thanks largely to Storz, and closes out side A another of the band’s solid hooks, giving way to the shorter, somewhat psych march of “Movements,” which meets its strong percussive pulse with layered acoustic and electric guitars and more sweetly executed singing. Toland backs himself, side-stepping the preacher role for that of the guru (maybe that’s too strong), but still keeping the Dickie Peterson-style inflection in his higher pitch. The song caps with the repeated and fading line “I’m living in a dream/Can’t escape from reality,” which comes on a little thick, but serves as a well-placed left turn ahead of the return to the straightforward and catchy modus of the first couple tracks that “Tryin’ too Hard” and “What Do You Know” signify. “Tryin’ too Hard” is carried mostly by the vocals, which are more than up to the task, but features some deceptively righteous fills from Denham, as well as the natural wash of his cymbals behind Storz’s bass break in the second half. A mini-jam ensues that’s quickly brought back around to the chorus, and the show of personality continues in “What Do You Know,” which turns a “Yeah, aw-haw, ooh” and the delivery of the track’s title line into Movements’ catchiest and most swaggering chorus.

Not only a highlight cut, “What Do You Know” is also a five-minute summary of what the whole of Movements has to offer, pushing its way forward seemingly with the strength of its arrogance alone. The Dirty Streets never veer wholly into punk, or even proto-punk, but that intangible confidence of approach and self-assuredness that made earliest MC5 so lethal is in “What Do You Know,” and though it’s not directly innovative on a stylistic level and not necessarily trying to convince you otherwise, it almost does in spite of itself. The band appears to have realized the song’s power as well, situating it as a firm closing argument ahead of the comedown finale duo “You Could Have Fooled Me” and “Native Sun” – the former taking a relatively subdued approach compared to much of what precedes it and the latter a two-minute acoustic/percussion outro that lives up to its name in terms of the atmosphere it creates. Movements as a whole does that as well, eschewing the idea that a record has to be pretentious to pull off a change in mood and instead keeping its focus on the business of crafting quality songs and letting the rest sort itself out. That doesn’t always work in a band’s favor, but it does for The Dirty Streets, and this record shows marked promise for that as much for the looseness and natural vibes of these performances. Recommended.

The Dirty Streets on Thee Facebooks

Good for Nothing Records

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4 Responses to “The Dirty Streets, Movements: Heading for the Wonder”

  1. Bill Goodman says:

    Excellent album. One of my top picks of 2011

  2. Excellent!! But I am still stuck on their last album. It hasn’t left my car since I got it.

  3. Also, I would like to see The Dirty Streets tour with The Brought Low.

  4. Mack Sabbath says:

    Sweet review. Love this record so damn bad I can’t even take it. – Piece, Mack (

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