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Damaged Bug: Hubba Bubba

Google the name John Dwyer and you’ll notice one word that keeps on popping up: “prolific”. With his band Thee Oh Sees (previously OCS, then Thee Ohsees) he has recorded at least one new studio album every year since 2004, and toured most of them internationally; he also runs his own Castle Face label, oversees the ongoing program of TOS live records, and last year published a book of his own photography. Dude’s a tireless workaholic, seemingly incapable of relaxing even when he’s meant to be taking a break: in December it was announced that Thee Oh Sees would be going on hiatus, and yet just a couple weeks ago came news of another new studio LP – Drop, coming out in April – as well as the forthcoming live reunion of his old band Coachwhips. On top of all this Dwyer (working under the pseudonym Damaged Bug) has somehow found time to record a solo album, and it’s pretty darn great, although – let’s be honest – that’s no real shock. What is surprising about Hubba Bubba, out this week on Castle Face, is the way that Dwyer all but ignores the guitar – his main weapon of choice for the last decade and a half – in favour of a particular Radio Shack synthesizer, the Realistic MG-1, that he coveted as a kid. Inspired by the likes of Suicide and Chrome – the first wave of punks to embrace keyboards and drum machines – and the electronic experimenters of the mid-’70s (Eno, Kraftwerk), Dwyer managed to track down said Moog and set about rebooting his songwriting process, and whilst tracks like “Gloves For Garbage” and “Sic Bay Surprise” are obviously cut from the same cloth as much of his previous output (jittery, rattling rhythms, angular psych-rock riffage), the overall vibe is darker and more industrial, acknowledging the influence of iconic proto-techno acts like Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk without taking itself seriously enough to walk into a nightclub wearing sunglasses. In fact, despite its electronic backbone, for the most part Hubba Bubba couldn’t be further from a “dance” record: with its low BPM beats and spitting, sizzling circuitry, the closest thing the album offers to a floor-filler is “SS Cassidinea”, a sparse, lurching Krautrock groove driven by Dwyer’s bone-dry live drumming, but that’s not to say it isn’t a whole lot of fun, and even taking into account a couple of mis-steps – “Catastrophobia” smacks somewhat of someone pressing as many buttons at once as possible and seeing what kind of noise they can make – it measures up surprisingly well against the best of Dwyer’s considerable back catalogue. A labour of love, then, rather than the half-baked side project it might have been, and proof that a change is as good as a rest; listen to “Eggs At Night” below.

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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