Supreme Dicks

Working Man's Dick

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Billed as "archival recordings 1987-1989," Working Man's Dick makes the official albums from the Supreme Dicks seem as polished as Pet Sounds. Very much a compliment, to be sure: next to nobody was sounding anywhere near so fractured, offbeat and interesting in indie rock at that time outside of the obscurer corners of New Zealand. The obscurity that swathes the band continues here -- who knows who is playing on what song or even if the lineup is at all stable or consistent, but the results are what counts, and great results they are. The various vocal approaches help to immediately mark the band, ranging from the in-the-mic low semi-grumble/croon on "All That Returns" to the variety of styles on display in the chop-up piece "Arise! Life-Giving Seagull." If there's something that really marks out the band and this album, though, it's the beautiful melancholy on so many songs, combined with the fact that for all the seeming casualness the Supreme Dicks are very specific players, also aiming to set and maintain moods and mantras rather than solely improvise. Efforts like "For Now" and "Chateaux Banana! Parts XIII-XVI," as a result, forecast the exalted heights of Slint and Mogwai in their intensity, even if only in brief bursts. Songs like "Andy Herman Song," tender, quavering vocals, gentle descending guitar, and precise percussion, and the guitar/recorder combination evident on "The Baal Shem" need no qualification or extra musical shock value to demonstrate their worth. Moments such as what sounds like the mike-scratch rhythm on "The Pear Thripe" (followed by an audible decrease in volume all around) add to the off-kilter, fascinating appeal of the collection and the band itself.

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