Dope Body – Nupping (2011)

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by Tom Johnson

Some music feels overwhelming. When Battles hit their stride with Mirrored, the first feeling was that, as tight as they were, they felt like the wheels were just moments from being flung off. Or they were strapping you into a tilt-a-whirl that would quickly go out of control, taking you seconds from spinning itself to pieces. There’s an elation in some music that is impossible to deny, and the listener gets a contact high, as if it seeps into the air in their studio, into their mics, amps, and all the recording equipment, and finally into the music you’re hearing. It hits square in the kidneys, squeezing out your own adrenaline. That’s exciting. And that’s what keeps me coming back to Nupping.

This is the kind of album you can play for any group of people and a small subset of people are going to get it while the rest will flat out hate it.

Just like Battles — they both have the same power to divide, though I’d wager Dope Body will turn off even more than Battles with their much more aggressive sound. The novelty factor of Battles that many find entertaining, if only for a short while, is lacking in Dope Body’s music. This is more pure aggression, as delirious and ridiculous as it may be. Those that get Dope Body’s particular take on “it” will have the same big grin on their face I have when I listen.

It’s easy to see what might turn people off. Battles builds and builds on a rhythm until they can pack no more intensity into it, and Dope Body compounds things with shouted vocals that are further intensified by distortion. There’s a feeling at times that maybe you’re hearing this album in large, concrete room, with the sound bouncing all around, yet it never quite loses its form. It’s rigid cacophony, but there’s something ridiculously joyous about it. It’s also intense, and it would be easy for a lot of people to dismiss because of that. But they’d be missing out.

Dope Body is sparse — your basic rock power trio of guitar and/or bass, and drums, with vocals. I use the word “vocals” in the most general term as I’m not sure that vocalist Andrew Laumann is actually saying anything most of the time. His contributions are either shouted and coated in distortion or paired up with another voice to the point that what results is unintelligible syllables of human voice.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that; gibberish vocals are just as valid to me as “real” lyrics. Heck, most of the time, “real” lyrics are so terrible most bands would be better off just making vocal noises. Lack of words has never stopped a vocal-based band from being entertaining. Perhaps I’m entirely wrong, and Laumann is actually singing something very deep and meaningful. I have no idea. It just doesn’t matter.

I’ve already repeatedly made the comparison to Battles, and in a way you could say they’re sort of a punky, metallic Battles. But, more accurately, Dope Body’s Nupping is the sound of early Killing Joke — tribal drumming and razor-sharp guitar, emulated here by David Jacober and Zach Utz, respectively — and The Jesus Lizard’s bizarre turns of phrase and paranoia-inducing intensity. But it’s still not that simple.

Dope Body is every bit a band raised under the heavy influence of media saturation. Hip-hop informs their rhythms (“100 Mile” aptly showcases a seeming homage to early MTV-era rap), 80s party-rock riffs (and even some David Lee Roth style shrieks) punch through punk songs, and occasional synth-type sounds slip through to meld it all together. It’s hard to pin any one trait on any one song, it gets spread all throughout yet never feels
like it’s done tongue in cheek. Perhaps one could look to “Bangers & Yo” for more examples than others of them draining the media sponge into one song. Funny enough, that one’s a particularly Killing Joke-esque tune, a
band I wouldn’t really suggest appreciates media saturation.

I keep noticing things like this — new, young bands that throw a lot of stuff into the mix. I don’t think they’re all successful. But I think it demonstrates the effect of the exposure to rapid-fire media they grew up with. This is the first generation that was fully, completely immersed in a life after MTV really made hyperactive editing the norm. In this case, it’s not what were told we should fear. It’s not the mind-numbing, creativity sapping drain we were warned about.

Here, it’s the opposite. Here, in Dope Body’s case, it’s as if they could hardly hold back the creativity. The results are gleefully ridiculous in the most positive way possible.

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at
Tom Johnson
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