I find it very difficult to criticize Dirty Casual’s Light and Dark Matter. I can’t even describe it as “good” or “bad.” More than anything, it feels “unfinished.” It’s almost as if the band went into the studio, realized their vocalist was missing, and decided to cut the record anyway. The majority of it is NOT a fun listen. The listener is forced to fill in the blanks, which is fine and dandy if you’re doing karaoke but NOT if you’re trying to treat yourself to a kickass doom metal record. The instrumentation is continuously building to a chorus or a full-fledged scream that just never materializes. I WANTED to sing along but there was just nothing there! If I were judging these as demos, then I’d say it’s a start. As it stands, all I can say is hire a singer, go back to the lab, and actually finish these songs.
Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with an album that is purely instrumentation. To hate on music that doesn’t include a vocalist is merely a subjective opinion. The reason it is such a problem, in this case, is that the musicianship is simply unable to stand by itself. It also seems to be glaringly obvious that the music was written to feature a vocal melody line. I don’t know why they went this route (possibly someone quit?), but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work. The down-tuned guitar chugging away ad nauseam ends up being the focal point, which would be fine if it wasn’t so monotonous. As a result, I still can’t remember ANY of the songs! I legit can’t tell you the difference between “Upon Us” and “Sandwich.” All of this could have been rectified with a singer, a lead guitar line, or more variety in instrumentation. None of this happens, however.
That said, there are small moments of inspiration here. “Choice” jumps out of the gate with a funky-fresh beat and a downright dirty Minutemen-style bass groove. It would be a fantastic misdirect if the rest of the music wasn’t so uninspiring. By the end, you’ll wish they had tied themselves to a different genre.
The best track by a hundred miles is “Light and Dark Matter.” It centers around a beautiful, long, winding guitar solo which gives the rest of the band a simple but effective framework to play off of. All this shows me that Dirty Casuals ARE capable of making some wonderfully inspired black magic, which makes it all the more frustrating when having to slog through track 2 to 5.
In the end, Light and Dark Matter is much like an undercooked bag of popcorn. There are some good buttery pieces, but most of it is just kernels of what could have been. The worst part is I feel it could have been a lot better with more effort. Everything about Light and Dark Matter feels very rushed. It’s like the band wanted to put ANYTHING out. Hell, look at the DIY aesthetic of that album cover if you want further proof! In today’s musical landscape it makes sense to want to put yourself out there as quickly as you can or run the risk of being forgotten completely. You know what though? It’s better to keep your tasty dish in the oven until it is absolutely 100% ready to consume.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Kate Erickson