Dirtbag Republic’s self-titled debut is a straightforward, no-frills, rock record that will no doubt satisfy fans hungry for some head-banging riffs and sing-along choruses. Combining the sleaziness of Aerosmith with some punk-ish attitude, the band delivers a great rock record with some youthful energy that defies the band members’ age. This record proves that using a tried and true formula of loud guitars, charismatic lead vocals, and some great hooks make for one heck of a good time.
The band is formed by veterans of the Canadian rock scene, vocalist and drummer, Sandy Hazard, along with guitarist, Mick Wood. The duo enlisted some experienced session players to help round out the lineup. As a music critic, I’ve had the displeasure of hearing some pretty badly mixed records, but I can safely say that this album is loud and proud. There is a great balance between the heavily distorted guitar riffs and solos, as well as Hazard’s powerful lead vocals; everything fits nicely in the sound sphere. Hazard and Wood have been around the block more than a few times, and it shows in the arrangements. The guitar is always complementing when it should yet still comes out in front for a little showmanship when needed, yet none of it is overdone. Hazard’s vocals is simply great. He doesn’t have the best voice I’ve ever heard, but it’s got that rock edge needed to make you feel every lyric, and most importantly he sounds like he’s having fun.
All that musicianship wouldn’t mean much if the songwriting wasn’t as strong. That isn’t the case here. Dirtbag Republic know how to write a hook. Songs like “I Have Nothing,” and “Exits and Dangers” were stuck in my head for days and will certainly translate to some great live performances. Though founding members, Hazard and Wood, have been playing music for longer than I’ve been alive, they have a youthful and infectious energy that belies their veteran status. I could imagine a song like “Leave The Lights On” being played during intermissions at a major sporting event; with it’s driving rhythm and huge chorus it’s definitely stadium ready.
Although the band’s sound is consistently loud and fast, it does make for some monotony. About halfway through the album the songs begin to bleed into one another without much distinction. If I’m picky, there’s the fact that, though the record sounds great, every song is mixed and balanced in exactly the same way. Also, a lot of tracks are in the same key, making them very similar when listening all the way through. That isn’t much of a complaint as they have a good formula, but it means that if you’re not hooked after the first few minutes you won’t find the rest of what this band has to offer very interesting.
Dirtbag Republic’s first full-length release is a ‘meat and potatoes platter,’ rock record. It doesn’t sway far from it’s roots, but when you combine talent and charisma, it can make for a great serving of music. I think fans will be asking for second helpings after this one.
Written by Ben Massicotte
*edited by Danielle Kenedy