The Dwarves - Julio [EP] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Dwarves

Julio [EP] (2017)

Riot Style

The Dwarves have never shied away from looking at things from the seedier perspective. The classic “Drugstore “ followed a junkie as he skipped his way to his next fix. It didn’t say “look at how bad this person is for being strung out!” but rather, sough to examine the reason why a guy on a fix likes getting his fixes despite the fact that it consumes his entire life. See this too on “Pimp,” wherein vocalist Blag Dahlia dons a fur jacket, assumes the role of the guys you see one block down from the Great American Music hall, and says it like it like the rather nasty character sees it. The Dwarves have always assumed that their listeners are intelligent enough to realize the basic conceit that just because a character expresses a view in a song, doesn’t mean that the artist is saying that “this is good and right.” No one in the Godfather is saying that Michael Corleone ins a good guy by the time the end of the movie rolls around, even though we see the movie from his perspective.

To that end, when investigating the baddies, the Dwarves often seek to draw out some sense of humanity from their wretched cast. “Here’s Looking at You,” one of the two main posts on the Julio EP, finds the band taking this challenge to its extreme. Anchored by a driving hardcore rush, the tune slides in some surf-rock homages to keep the song floating upwards, away from standard punk cliché. Meanwhile, Blag builds his vocal melody in the style of the classic ‘50s love songs all while telling the tale of a peeping tom… from the perspective of the peeping tom. To make things worse, the peeper is one of the Nabakov variety. Dahlia details the creeper’s excitement from those perverted eyes without passing judgment. Now certainly, the band seems to be reveling in the fun of provoking outrage and nastiness simply for the sake of nastiness. But, it’s telling that the song is structured in such a rolling fashion and that with a few slight changes, could be a ore traditional love song. The band seems to challenge the listener- is there something human in this wretch from the mere fact that he is experiencing genuine human emotion while engaging in distinctly unwholesome actives? They don’t answer the question and that’s sort of the point.

Meanwhile, the EP’s other anchor is Freddie Cannon style pop banger ”Julio.” As the song’s subject descends into paranoia all while detailing his own peccadilloes, the band playful snaps from polar opposites, spending one minute in S&M shackles and the next being “a saint.” Packed with dense, circular lyical spins, the track demonstrates just how masterfully the band can craft classic pop songs. They might be best known for being raw and explicit, but less mentioned is the Dwarves ability to adhere to classic form, all while challenging the mores du jour.

EP exclusive “Nowhere Fast” and “Down and Dirty” pay tribute to the band’s early 90s hardcore formation and finds the band thrashing along in high energy attack. “Nowhere Fast” finds the band telling the tale of a basement dweller while “Down and Dirty” is a 46 second blast of trademark Dwarves machismo. Interestingly, while both the tracks are set in buzzing, hardcore furor, the band makes it a point to spice up the procession with out-of-character music bends, which take the tracks in unexpected directions.

Across their 35 year existence, the Dwarves have been attacked time and time again for not being very nice people and for saying not very nice things. It’s interesting that this release underscores how the band is interested in examining undesirables to see how they got to such a lowly station, and not just trying to wipe them out- all while taking fire from some critics for not assuming the later posture. When choosing between the two options- seeing if all humans are truly human or simply throwing creeps in the stockade- one does wonder which route really is the more progressive selection.