Rock ‘n’ Roll excess with heart

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The Dudes play no-nonense, good time rock ‘n’ roll, and their latest album, Blood Guts Bruises Cuts, embodies the spirit of ’70s bands such KISS and ZZ Top. To describe it as archaic is an understatement: this is the kind of band Spinal Tap was making fun of 15 years ago. With their lumbering drums, singalong choruses, and seemingly endless supply of chunky guitar riffage, the Dudes veer dangerously close to the much-miligned genre of “frat rock”—no mistake, this is the perfect soundtrack to a raging kegger, the kind of album that ought to be accompanied with chants of “Toga! Toga! Toga!”

But, somehow, they pull it off. Rather than coming off as trite or superficial, the Dudes music is heartfelt in its rock ‘n’ roll excess. They draw heavily on soul and R&B, particularly during the album’s dense vocal harmonies—check out “Ghosts We’re Buried On,” with its ghostly one-word refrain: “Soul.” The group’s penchant for vintage soul is complimented perfectly by frontman Dan Vacon’s wearied, poignant vocals—he can make an unabashed party rock tune like “Girl Police” sound downright heartbreaking. And although his lyrical subject matter is typical frat rock fare—parties, girls, rock ‘n’ roll—his wit and emotional detail prevent him from ever descending into cliche. “Mr. Someone Else” is a sordid tune about wanting to steal a friend’s girlfriend, but Vacon’s tumbling rhyme scheme makes it sound almost revelatory: “Your girl is better than my girl / She gives you loving that i bet / Is better than I get.”

It’s an addictive mixture of stadium-sized bombast and softhearted emotionality, and, with the exception of the experimental final track (“Bonus”), any one of the 14 songs on Blood Guts Bruises Cuts is catchy enough to be a radio single. It’s tough to see why, after 16 years together, the Dudes still haven’t broken out of their hometown of Calgary to achieve mainstream success—after all, the Dudes could easily fill the same niche as the Trews, only with better tunes and a bigger heart.

Blood Guts Buises Cuts is out now via LOADmusic.
 
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