Dressy Bessy

Kingsized

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AllMusic Review by

After taking a long break from making albums and touring, Dressy Bessy returned in 2016 with Kingsized, an album for Yep Roc that sounded revitalized and on par with their best work from years before. During their sabbatical, the core group of singer/guitarist Tammy Ealom, guitarist John Hill, and drummer Craig Gilbert didn't really do much to alter their punk-pop-crunch-meets-bubblegum-snap template; they seem to have tightened it up a bit and scruffed it around the edges, and they deliver it with an angry power that previous albums have only hinted at. The lyrics alternate between pissed-off politics and hard-edged love songs, with Ealom's vocals alternately snarling and sweet as punch. This tough/tender dichotomy has existed in their music for a while, but it sounds fully integrated this time as the dueling approaches fit together perfectly. Uptempo songs like "Giddy Up" and "Pop Phenom" have sharply honed hooks for days, but enough rhythm section punch and guitar snarl to ward off any accusations of tweeness. The songs that slow it down a bit and get a little dark are just as impressive. "Make Mine Violet" has a grown-up depth that the group hasn't necessarily been able to reach before, with Ealom's more expressive singing matching the dramatic arrangements note for note. Speaking of arrangements, the extra instrumentation the group brought in to fill out its basic sound gives the record a more 3-D sound. Peter Buck drops by to play some jangling 12-string guitar, Scott McCaughey adds some organ here and there, and Rebecca Clay Cole's backing harmonies help bolster the vocals. Kingsized is what happens sometimes when a band's members sit back and takes stock of where they've been before moving forward. They've figured out their strengths and worked on making them stronger, while making some needed adjustments and injecting some new life and passion into their sound. Fans of Dressy Bessy's early sound may miss the happy-go-lucky band they used to be, but their new incarnation is just as poppy, only a bit more serious and grown up.

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