By Steve Graham
Dressy Bessy is back, and I couldn’t be happier — at least when the band is up to its old tricks.
“Fast Faster Disaster” is the Colorado group’s first album in three years, and only the second since the band’s initial run of four nearly perfect albums between 1999 and 2005. When the band is back in its driving pop groove, the new album is glorious.
Dressy Bessy, named for a 1970s Playskool doll, is best known for its connection to the Elephant 6 collective. Then based in Denver, the collective spawned some of the most creative and acclaimed indie pop bands of the 1990s, including Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control and Apples in Stereo.
The latter band shares guitarist John Hill with Dressy Bessy. The groups also share an affinity for catchy hooks and 1960s pop music. But Hill and singer Tammy Ealom turned up the guitars just a little bit louder on most Dressy Bessy tracks.
The new album opens with some classic Dressy Bessy. You can’t help but dance and sing along with all the ba-da-da’s on “It’s Not That Hard,” a glorious three-minute confection.
“Take it easy, it’s rock-and-roll,” Ealom sings.
About 35 minutes later, she closes with a great, driving Buzzcocks cover — a perfect homage to a clear influence. And it might even introduce some new fans to “What Do I Get?,” which is undeniably among the best melodic punk songs ever written.
It kind of hurts to criticize such a beloved band, but in between these solid bookends, there are some missteps.
On a couple of tracks, Ealom slips into some spoken lyrics that sound less like today’s hip-hop class and more like Blondie’s rap turn on “Rapture.” Credit is due to Blondie for helping bring underground New York City rap to a mainstream audience, but her homage to Fab Five Freddy did not age well, and it’s not worth reliving a la Dressy Bessy.
But there’s a simple fix. Make a playlist with the rest of these great pop tunes and bliss out.