Do you know how difficult it is to review an album that has no songs on it? I mean you try to make the best of things by describing sounds temporally or in reference to some sort of palette, but when an artist gets in a room and just strums a guitar and howls for a bit, it’s really tough to validate that. Dirty Beaches’s debut album Badlands is such an album, and, because Alex Zhang Hungtai, the man behind the group, refuses to write songs on his album, then I refuse to write about it in any other way than in reference to songs:
“Lord Knows Best” is the only actual song on Badlands. It has a nifty little piano line and Hungtai’s words other than his repetition of the song’s title are actually intelligible. “Lord knows best,” he sings. “But I don’t give a damn / ‘Bout anyone / But you.” Not bad, Hungtai. If you wrote more stuff like that I’d actually enjoy your debut album.
The rest works is a bell curve in terms of songability with “Lord Knows Best” being in the middle. Everything else is just really tedious guitar strumming and yipping vocals filtered through something seriously awful to the point where every new elements sounds like a swarm of insects. You can hear the bass in “True Blue”! Do you care? I don’t.