Good things: British accents, Billy Bragg, protest music, treatin’ ladies decent, British accents, J.D. Salinger, punk rock, social commentary, a sense of humor and British accents.
Things you’ll find on Dworkin’s Bastards by One Night Stand in North Dakota: Everything above, except, sadly, for good ol’ jokes. The acoustic duo of Daniel Ellis and Nathan Griffin has two modes: super serious and super anthemic. When the latter’s engaged, as on “We Definitely Didn’t Start the Fire” or “Good News Everyone, I’m Still Technically Alive,” ONSIND delivers full-force folk-punk rants, campfire-ready and informative to boot. Ellis and Griffin do a lot more than just strum a couple of chords; guitar leads pop up throughout the record, adding little flourishes here and there. Hooks crop up as well, like the gang vocals implemented for the phrase “One more meter of concrete / One more local shop closed down / No matter how much they change it / This is still our town” on “A Generous Exposition.” The tune ponders cities’ gentrification and homogenization , and like a way more liberal "Schoolhouse Rock" song, it teaches through music.
When the super serious mode kicks in, though, the band comes off a little too self-righteous. “If You Feel Attacked by Feminism, It’s Probably a Counter-Attack” discusses the disconnect between the self-image Western culture perpetuates about women and the way women actually are, and it’s the sort of song I respect more than I like. It’s cool that someone wrote a song that actually talks stats (“The average British woman is a size 16, but the average British model is a 6… We’re drowning in the Beauty Myth”). But while it drops some much needed truth bombs, it also contains an unwieldy lyrical flow. The instrumentation doesn’t do anything remarkable until the ominous, tense outro. Still informative, just not as memorable.
Sometimes the songs' plots overwhelm and dampen the music. “Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter” is arguably one of the catchiest tracks on Dworkin’s Bastards, but man is it a stupid song. The main character, Gretchen, pulls a Squeaky Fromme by pointing a gun without any bullets in the chamber at a politician. Oddly, in gun-toting America, Squeaky was arrested and sent to prison. In the UK, however, Gretchen eats lead. Turns out she sacrificed herself to get a note read on the news about how society holds us all down. The note itself is kind of catchy; the steps this Catcher in the Rye enthusiast took to get it on the air are kind of juvenile. But while “Daughter” is the Sorrows of Young Werther of folk-punk songs -- romantically suicidal to the point of idiocy -- it goes out on a rousing note.
Dworkin’s Bastards is a mixed bag; plenty of people will think the record is obnoxiously intense about politics. Some might get turned off by the occasionally shrill vocals, or the lack of drums, or the number of song titles that reference Billy Joel (“We Definitely Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Scenes from a Shit Restaurant”). But set aside the fact that Dworkin’s Bastards isn’t a pop record and one just might notice how honest and furious the thing sounds. One Night Stand in North Dakota probably won’t get mainstream recognition, but that’s the culture the band is fighting.