Dressy Bessy – Kingsized

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 5)

I bought this album at the Dressy Bessy show at Sleeping Village. Colleen Green was the opening act, and she was very good, by the way. I had mixed feelings as the show approached, as I was disappointed by the albums since Dressy Bessy, which I loved, but I figured Tammy Ealom puts on such a good show that I would still enjoy it anyway. I probably listened to Kingsized on Spotify leading up to the concert and was thrilled to hear so many great – I mean, really fucking great – songs on it.

What I Think of This Album

While hardly the big time, this feels like Dressy Bessy’s star-making turn, full of famous guests and with a bright, full sound, and on new label YepRoc. It was not, of course, a star-making turn, but it is a fantastic album that houses some of Dressy Bessy’s best work.

The aforementioned guests include Peter Buck, Rebecca Cole (Wild Flag, the Minders), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, the Minus 5, the Baseball Project), Vanessa Briscoe Hay (Pylon), Jason Garner (Polyphonic Spree, Old 97’s, Deathray Davies), Eric Allen (the Apples in Stereo), Michael Giblin (the Split Squad), and Andy Shernoff (Dictators). While not as consistent as the self-titled third album, it probably has higher peaks, and in any event is way better than interceding albums Electrified and Holler and Stomp. I tend to think of this as a comeback album after the wrong turn of those two discs.

The opening drum roll of “Lady Liberty” demands your attention immediately and an impressively slippery bass line from Garner pulls you into a world of handclaps, 12 string guitar (from Buck), sweetly stacked vocals (Ealom and Cole), and a sassy performance from Ealom:  “Man, that bitch is good.” Equally excellent – if not better – is the electrifying title track, with an otherworldly performance from guitarist John Hill, whose guitar squeals would make Neil Young smile, another strong guest bass, this time from Giblin, and a vocal performance bursting with attitude (even though the lyrics are twee enough to have fit in well on Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons). The final part of the great trinity of this album is “Make Mine Violet” which is darker and more mature than a lot of the band’s typical material. It also boasts an excellent arrangement, at times reminding me of the Beach Boys, with wonderful harmonies, unexpected mini melodies, and stick percussion accents. Hill’s guitar is buried in the mix and almost sounds like a keyboard sometimes, and McCaughey adds some critical piano. Ealom plays this bass this time around, and, of course, delivers a killer vocal. These three tracks are so compelling and infectious that you almost forget to listen to the rest of the album.

But even the second tier songs are very good. I am not sure how I feel about the use of “mamacita” on sunny “Honeybee,” but this song is just a hair less impressive than the three already discussed so I will allow it. Imagine a grittier Blondie and you will end up somewhere very near “57 Disco,” on which McCaughey contributes organ. Departed bassist Rob Greene reappears for a couple of numbers, including spiky “Say Goodbye,” which provides the treat of hearing Ealom playing some surprisingly vinegary keyboard. The band brings lots of energy to “Giddy Up,” transforming what would otherwise be an average song into a very fun tune. The band gets dirty and dangerous on “These Modern Guns.”

“Pop Phenom” and “In Particular” are okay – not offensive but not Dressy Bessy’s best by a long shot (I do like how Ealom pronounces “phenomenon” on “Pop Phenom”). I find “Get Along Diamond Ring” to be fairly annoying, actually, and I feel pretty much the same about “Cup O’ Bang Bang,” but these are minor complaints.

The very long list of thank you includes Trent Bell, who I am going to assume is the same from Chainsaw Kittens; the rest of the list includes the Minus 5, the Baseball Project, Mike Mills, and the Apples In Stereo.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Kingsized” reigns supreme here.  

Release Date

February, 2016

The Cover Art

Minimalist and monochrome, I think this is great.

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