Baltimore is weird. It always has been. Ever since manufacturing and textiles and shipping kind of left the United States of America, this once large port town, competing with Philadelphia and New York City has crumbled into a post industrial American waste land of inefficiency, poverty, drug addiction and general grime. All of which seems to be reflected in the cities bands. This of course happens because Baltimore is a good place to live if you are poor and don’t want a corporate job. The rents are cheap if you don’t mind shootings and crack dealings and no corporate headquarters really operate there. It’s the perfect place for those kids that still feel invincible, allowing them the space to wreak havoc on the sound waves and get in the van and tour.
For whatever reason, living so close to Baltimore never helped me get into the scene there and that’s a shame because judged on the two bands in the last three years I’ve heard from there, I am missing out. Arty, weirdo nerds Double Dagger made my head and heart spin with their direct but jocular, cutting tunes that were punky and punchy. That band alone reminded me of why Baltimore, MD is one of my favorite cities in the United States. Now comes along their brain-damaged brethren in Dope Body, who, judging by my research has actually been at it for a hot minute. Where city siblings Double Dagger actually seem to want to penetrate with a bit of empathy, Dope Body just want to pummel the senses.
If there is a Baltimore sound, much the way they used to call all bands from DC part of the DC sound, it comes from the deconstruction of what songs and music can and should be. It’s loud, but not heavy. It’s punishing, but not throttling. Dope Body rocks, for sure, but there is such a massive misuse of anything that I would call a beat or a riff or song. I mean, they have structure to be sure, but it’s punctuated more by an ugly sense of discontent rather than sitting down and mapping out chord progressions.
And yet there are so many great familiar influences here. For perhaps the first time ever, I have heard go-go beats and inflections employed in post-punk white boy land effectively. The dub drenched vocals make my head tingle and dance, shouted as if into a bull horn at a protest then delivered into a simple microphone. The guitars, the both buzz with a gritty lo-fi rock and roll stream and slices across with hot mids and highs. There is almost no low-end to Dope Body, opting for a shot to the head or chest rather than taking out the legs.
Dope Body is youth energy in a city that is being forgotten but desperately trying to stay afloat. This is the musical cry from a metropolis that may become a ghost town or a den to uncontrolled violence, crime and decay. Baltimore is a Marxist nightmare come to life as Capitalism proves it’s inefficiencies, building communities, edifices, and infrastructure paved and hammered down. Concrete and steel replaced a landscape now forgotten and the bay has been cut, carved, paved and polluted. But Baltimore remains strong and vibrant, if not struggling. In the cracks and crumbled row homes, the kids are trying to build something new, Bohemia on top of Atlantis. Dope Body are leading the noisy, raucous crowds, banging, shouting and strumming along. It’s a mess, but a most spectacular mess to be sure.