Dressy Bessy – Dressy Bessy

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

This is the album that made me fall in love with this band. Only after listening to their other albums, both those that came before and the ones that followed, did the unique nature of Dressy Bessy fully reveal itself. I can’t think of another indie band that got harder and louder as its members aged – it’s usually the other way around. But this is the first time that Dressy Bessy sounds tough. Granted, they took it too far on the next two albums before course correcting with the excellent Kingsize, but this self-titled masterpiece is where Tammy Ealom and Co. turned the corner to become a powerhouse.

What I Think of This Album

While there are several great Dressy Bessy albums, this is the best one. Tammy Ealom’s melodies have never been sharper and John Hill’s guitar is grittier and displays more bite than ever before. The sound just explodes from the speakers, bringing to mind the cover art of singles comp Little Music.

Dripping with attitude and distorted riffs, Dressy Bessy sounds like a statement of purpose, suggesting that the band was tired of being both handcuffed to its twee origins and dismissed as a lesser light in the Elephant 6 collective. Well, this is definitely harder than most twee, and the band more than distinguishes itself as a capable, powerful, creative unit.

I will never get enough of the intro to “Just Once More,” which has to be one of my favorite beginnings of an album ever, with a rapid eighth note guitar strum leading to a simple quarter note riff by bassist Rob Greene and a second, distorted guitar, which then releases Greene to a deliriously hyperactive line. At key times, Hill does short Neil Young guitar impressions, carefully controlling the chaos he is on the verge of unleashing. And the way the band takes the momentum from the refrain of “it goes on and on” and resolves it is masterful. The band chunks its way into “The Things That You Say That You Do,” and as Ealom coos her way through the song, drummer Darren Albert surprises with rapid snare rolls.

Ealom is equal parts sassy and vulnerable on “Baby Six String” and Hill modulates his feedback expertly on the bridge, bringing it back to a melodic but distorted lead part. Speaking of modulation, Ealom does impressive things with her voice on the dark and taunting “This May Hurt A Little,” singing the title phrase less like a warning and more like a delicious blood oath. The band powers its way through the thick, syrupy “Georgie Blue,” with Hill kicking out short distorted riffs, and the little bit of studio verité at the end is fun. Ealom’s multi-tracked vocals lead the way on gnarly “Girl, You Shout!” and Hill continues his showcase with tidal waves of distortion and vicious squalls of lead guitar. “Hey May” is more of the same, with a melody that wouldn’t have been out of place on the debut, but never with this arrangement or delivery.

The weakest song here is “New Song (From Me to You)” and even then, it sports an enjoyable baseball reference. DeeDee Ramone would be proud of the count-in to spiky “Better Luck,” with by-now-fully-expected fireworks from Hill. “Blinktwice” starts out sounding like an attempt by Herman’s Hermits to be the Stooges and that’s not any sort of criticism, but in any event, Ealom eventually makes it her own through her creative delivery. Closing song “Tidy” is as good as the other eight outstanding songs on this album, with a wonderful second half that includes Keith Moon rolls and meaty riffing.

Chris Ziter of the Essex Green was one of the recording engineers; Britt Myers (Aimee Mann, Essex Green, Mates of State) was the other. My CD came with a bonus DVD that I’ve watched once. This is again on the Kindercore label.

The Best Thing About This Album

John Hill’s guitar work overshadows even Tammy Ealom’s excellent songwriting and assured vocals.

Release Date

August, 2003

The Cover Art

Ealom provided the artwork. I like this a lot – psychedelic but soft but also intense.

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