Dope Body - Kunk (Cover Artwork)

Dope Body

Kunk (2015)

Drag City

Dope Body always struck me as a noise rock band that doesn't actually listen to much noise rock. Something tells me they wouldn't suffer from a spontaneous weakening of the knees if Steve Albini happened to saunter into one of their shows. They don't simply derive their sound from the Touch & Go back catalogue, Dope Body instead implement their rubber guitar acrobatics and splintered Krautrock drum beats because they want to pummel you with a face full of sonic dirt. And, as luck would have it, the band brought us a whole new mound of dirt and they called it Kunk.

I can only assume Kunk is halfway between a thud and a scrape; the sound these songs make when they rattle around your skull. “Old Grey” begins with a piercing, blissed out muted guitar chug before kicking into a steady beat aided by shouts about waking up in trash cans. It’s the type of song that pushes your brain out and leaves you helpless at it slips down to the floor. “Obey” is a slow, muddy dirge with lyrics that read like a Bizarro World version of Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car.” Album closer “Void” is a noise laden exercise in what this band does best when unfettered: contort a basic song structure and bend it over backwards until it’s a ball of ascending rhythm and clamor.

Dope Body recorded these songs during the same sessions that gave us 2014's Lifer. Operating on pure improvisation, the band threw these songs together in the studio during fits of inspiration and energy. This improvisatory nature can be witnessed on interlude tracks like "Dad" and "Muddy Dune," but these only add to the loose quality of the album. Lifer had a consistent tone, the closest this band has sounded to classic rock, but it also constrained this usually freewheeling band. This makes Kunk’s unrestricted virility such a breath of fresh air. With the cobbled together interludes, the album is a little rough around the edges, but Kunk ultimately keeps from falling apart due to the locked in chemistry between the band members. Drummer David Jacober is as steady as ever while throwing curveballs back and forth between bassist John Jones and untethered guitarist Zachary Utz.

Though the album was apparently created on the spot, the lyrics don't seem to have been thrown together at the last minute. On “Old Grey,” vocalist Andrew Laumann states "All I see is disgruntled basements / brutalized stages / holes in the hallway / boarded up faces." These are the words only a band with seven years of underground touring under their belts can belt out with conviction. Elsewhere, Laumann ruminates on boredom, personal lows, and autocratic relationships. That is, he ruminates on these subjects when his words are decipherable. Kunk’s largest misstep is burying Laumann’s vocals on tracks like “Casual” and “Goon Line,” treating them as just another noise rather than another dimension to Dope Body’s music.

So picture this: an alternate universe where U.S. Maple and Drive Like Jehu were 90s modern rock radio heroes instead of the Foo Fighters and Soundgarden. Hot Topic sells shirts depicting the cover of Swell Maps' A Trip to Marineville instead of Unknown Pleasures. The Ramones are still cool, but the members of Chrome are held up as universal punk heroes as well. This is the universe Dope Body inhabits. This is Kunk.