Dick the Bruiser promises "lyric shards" with its new release, Purgatory Stories and Severe Songs. It could have just promised "standard Dick the Bruiser lyrics." For the Madison duo, words are but a terse splatter, with no context but Kevin Wade's twangy Rickenbacker bass and Tony Sellers' harsh yet swinging drums.
"I want my kisses back / don't be so mean," Wade snarls on "Kissy Fit," whose verbal fragments also mention James Dean, Mr. Clean, Geddy Lee, David Bowie, peaches and cream, and getting his records scratched. It could be a comic foil to the Police's sad-sack breakup song "Can't Stand Losing You," or just something howled across a grade-school playground when puppy love goes wrong.
Stylized simplicity governs the music, too. Wade attains what must be his analog of a dramatically held high note as he puts an extended nasal pinch on the last syllable of the line "I'm not your princess of pai[iiii]n."
The only thing approximating a lead instrument is Wade occasionally waving the head of his bass through the field of a theremin. The actual bass parts alternate between fuzz-pedal riffs and pointed two-or-three-note jabs. Sellers is a big fellow and tends to set his snare up below waist level, so it's fun and a bit intimidating to watch him rain blows on the thing. His impact comes through on Purgatory Stories and Severe Songs, especially the brief instrumental "Highway Rex," but there's also a quick and playful side to his style. There has to be, on a record with such smart-assed song titles as "Tuff Titty" and "Dead Leopards."
Dick the Bruiser plays a show with Bes Monde and the Low Czars at the High Noon Saloon on Sunday, August 19. Wade and Sellers can also briefly be seen playing with their old band P'elvis in a series of video clips included in the "Smart Sounds, Alt Music, Mad Scenes" exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Museum, which runs through Saturday, September 15.
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