Mr Dream

Trash Hit

Brooklyn power trio Mr. Dream are a band with an extensive knowledge of what makes a good song great. It might have something to do with the fact that two of the number – guitarist/ vocalist Adam Moerder and drummer Nick Sylvester – spend the majority of their time writing about music for various well-known websites, or it may just be that the groups they grew up with were so awesome that channelling their influence gives them an automatic head-start over so many of today’s lacklustre indie upstarts. Whatever the reason, Trash Hit – an album that recalls the very best of late-80s/ early-90s post-punk and grunge whilst factoring in a contemporary pop sensibility that could put even the strongest flavour-of-the-month blog-crush to shame – is one of the best debuts to emerge from the American underground in the last twenty years.

With just a handful of low-key single releases to their name, the coaction between the members of Mr. Dream betrays their relative inexperience; mining the same quiet / loud dynamic as the Pixies and Nirvana, the trio seem almost telepathically bonded. Frontman Moerder is a magnetic presence, flipping between a menacing David Yow growl and blood-curdling Cobain-esque screams, often within the space of the same song. He’s also a pretty capable guitarist, effortlessly wringing razor-sharp Joey Santiago-like lead-lines from his instrument. Matt Morello handles elastic bass-lines straight from the Kim Deal book of hooks with the same ease as the grinding riffs that steer the title track and ‘Learn The Language’, and also provides lead vocals on a handful of tracks, while Sylvester’s agile, powerhouse drumming and grimy production impress throughout.

Lyrically, Trash Hit is packed with simple but effective hooks ("It’s a trash hit / And it’s covered in shit"), but Moerder and Morello also have a penchant for rambling Jesus Lizard tirades and comical observations ("Walter’s got a big problem / The man’s got shit for brains") that would make Black Francis proud. Musically, it’s an all-killer-no-filler affair, packing more moments of pure pop genius into thirty minutes than some bands manage in thirty years. It’s hard to pick favourites from an album this consistent; the glam stomp of ‘Crime’, ‘Croquet’ and ‘Shotgun Tricks” hip-shaking Big Black boogie all stand out, but best of all is ‘Unfinished Business’, whose wailing new-wave guitars and surreal romanticism ("We got conned, we respond, we bring tow-trucks to the prom / They can’t hurt us") recall fellow post-punk revivalists Les Savy Fav.

Whilst some critics might find the band’s buzz-saw rock a little derivative, they may be missing the point. Like James Murphy did with LCD Soundsystem, Mr. Dream walk such a fine line between homage and parody that it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference. Do they actually realise how many Pixies bass-lines they have stolen, or how much ‘Holy Name’ sounds like Nirvana’s ‘Lithium’? Of course they do, but they also know how effective those tricks are. Trash Hit will doubtless appeal to thirty-somethings like yours truly raised on peak-period SST and Sub Pop releases, but this is not just a record for misty-eyed old rockers. Heartfelt and humorous with hooks to spare, this is an almost flawless album, and one that is much more than the sum of its parts.

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