Highlights: Offspring Are Blank, Gun Has No Trigger, Swing Lo Magellan, Unto Caesar
Since 2009’s acclaimed Bitte Orca bored me much too quickly, I wasn’t investing any serious hope into Dirty Projector’s new one. In fact, I would have gladly passed it by were it not for a totally accidental listen to “Gun Has No Trigger”, which is the sort of track that will be growing on you right till you succumb to its sheer brilliance. Sadly, the same does not hold true for the whole thing, but further listens do reveal something close to a Dirty Projectors’ most satisfying album to date.
There’s no such thing as a first listen to this band’s albums. The first listen to Swing Lo Magellan is supposed to be frustrating and complicated. Erratic, edgy song structures, absolute sonic uneasiness. All very artsy, to the point where you would want to snort contemptuously: do they have to keep doing it (changing tunes, switching tempos) simply because they can’t come up with one great fucking melody?..
However hard you may try, you probably won’t be able to answer that question. As for general appreciation, I’m afraid the key to that would be to try to get into the groove of their fidgety, jittery songcraft. In fact, this stuff, though offputtingly unbalanced on occasion, is incredibly well-written and meticulously arranged. The opening “Offspring Are Blank” changes its moods quite drastically, but both flashy, ferocious guitar solos and soulful mellowness work perfectly. There’s a stretch of rather uncharismatic songs after the title track, but quieter, more ballad-oriented stuff like “Impregnable Question” or the strings-laden “See What She Seeing” are as impressive and inventive as you would expect from these guys.
Swing Lo Magellan is filled with what I would call random (could be incidental) greatness. But greatness nonetheless. It is your ultimate grower. Interestingly, the moment it ceases to grow on you – the charm is almost entirely gone. But then it’s not the sort of record you would wish to hear too often.