Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Recently someone on I Love Music brought up the band The Dentists, and I pulled out their CD Dressed for the first time in a while and re-discovered how great it is, so I thought I'd share.

First, though, the brief story of how I discovered The Dentists, because I think that I'm probably not the only one this happened to:

I was a fan of this indie-folk-psych-etc. person named Lida Husik who started out on Shimmy Disc before shimmying over to Caroline and then to Alias. On her Caroline album Joyride, she covered a Dentists' song called Strawberries Are Growing In My Garden (And It's Wintertime) and her version is really nice. I'll post it soon. I went running out to the record store to check out the Dentists and found a cut-out copy of their Behind The Door I Keep The Universe CD. Sadly, it made no impression on me, and I didn't hear anything as good as Strawberries on it. From time to time over the next few years I'd encounter a Dentists' album or single, always used, always uninspiring, and I pretty much gave up on the group.

Eventually though I found a copy of Dressed, which collects their early recordings including Strawberries etc., and I was very curious to hear the original version of that song even though I hadn't liked anything else I'd heard. It turns out that Dressed is thoroughly wonderful. So if you've checked out the Dentists other albums and been unimpressed, I've been there too.

Even though they were English, I hear them having a lot in common with the New Zealand Flying Nun type bands. There's a lot of frantic strumming, scrappy drumming, simple lead guitar parts and catchy melodies with well-deployed harmonies: basically your well-worn mix of Velvet Underground (as in What Goes On), Beatles (as in She Said, She Said) and garage rock. When I think of that trio of influences I always think of the Feelies, but the Dentists were much looser (also their production isn't as good, and I think that the informality works to their advantage in the same way that Guided By Voices' quirks elevated their early material). Aside from Strawberries, other tracks that I love are Chainsaw The Horse and I Can See Your House From Up Here. The latter song reminds me a lot of The Moles if you took away that band's weird twists and turns and just kept the catchy parts.

I've refrained from putting up some other songs that are just as good (or better) than the last two. There are twenty-two strong songs on this CD and if you like the three I've posted you probably ought to go get them all.

Apologies to any fans of the Dentists who like their later work. I haven't listened to them in years, and I'm open to the idea that I might have missed something.

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