Dirty White Fever are a band with a hell of a reputation for rawkus, eardrum-bursting live shows. They really are one of the loudest bands I’ve seen in action, which seems even more impressive when you consider that there are only two of them. They’re a band that seem to pop up periodically to play a few killer shows before slipping away into the night and out of view. Lead singer and guitarist Dominic Knight has been kept busy, as a former member of The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and Bad For Lazarus, while drummer Leon Holder can often be found in local venues working the sound desk as one of Brighton’s most respected live engineers. This is apparently how the two met and formed the band: Holder was engineering a night where Knight was performing as a one man band. Having swiftly completed the sound-check Holder thought he’d have a cheeky bash on the kit, Knight caught him in the act, liked what he heard and the rest is history, as they say.
It seems that 2017 is finally going to be Dirty White Fever’s year with the independent release of this, their debut album …on the shores of San Salvador, with the assistance of Roadkill Records. Both the band’s name and album title refer to the colonial spread of white Europeans to the newly discovered Americas, and the horror that inflicted on the world. San Salvador island was the first landing site for Christopher Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of the New World. This ushered in an era of white explorers heading to the Americas to start colonies and in the process, both by introducing diseases never before encountered in the region and through the pursuit of vicious conquest, they managed to wipe out millions of indigenous peoples.
From the pounding drums and guitar motif that ushers in opening song, ‘Shallow Borders’, there’s an aggression and intensity that’s entirely appropriate given the dark subject matter the band are channelling. The entire album sounds fantastic and consistent, perfectly capturing the energy and dynamism of their sound as a live band. Holder’s drums are powerful, beaten with precision, informed by a love of old school hip-hop and break-beats, he knows when to peg-down a straight supporting groove and when to work against the grain, which creates some really interesting results. Knight’s souped-up guitar sounds great as well, run through a guitar amp and a bass amp it sounds thick and gritty throughout. He uses some pitch-shifting to fill in that low end, but doesn’t get over-wrought, never losing its character as principally a dirty, bluesy, distorted guitar sound. Knight has a great gritty blues singing voice, one that is capable of getting as dirty as everything else on offer.
My favourite track has to be ‘7.83Hz’, an old single for the band, which comes in with a bang. It has a pitched lead guitar lick that stands out as a tonality we’ve not yet heard on the record, adding another dimension that doesn’t really get repeated elsewhere. It has a bouncy buoyancy that propels the song along without affecting the inherent menace. Knight tells me it’s written about the Schuman Resonance, “a frequency that reverberates between the ionosphere and the earth’s surface has healing powers for the human body, but it is widely speculated that it's clap trap.” With such interesting subject matter going on I’d love to get my hands on a lyric sheet for the album, as it’s not always immediately obvious exactly what’s being sung.
The album tends towards slow-burning blues-influenced riffage, of the dirty garage blues variety, but they always keep things moving with each track introducing some new idea that’s not been heard before. With only three elements to play with you could imagine things becoming a bit samey after a while, but that’s not the case here. The beats seem to get more broken and the grooves less standard as the album progresses into its second half, with penultimate track ‘Prism’ being a great example of exactly how inventive these two players can get, playing around with shifts of rhythmical emphasis and expansive instrumental sections that they somehow manage to cram into the tracks sub-three minute play length. With recordings that sound this great and songwriting of such a high calibre Dirty White Fever certainly manage to stand-out in a music scene where the two-piece format is becoming ever more common. For my personal taste there’s a lot more on offer here to keep me interested than someone like Royal Blood, who might get my head bobbing on the first listen, but don’t really stand up to prolonged scrutiny. Here’s hoping this album can propel Dirty White Fever up to the next level, they’ve got the ideas and tonnes of talent, they deserve to be massive!