Review: The New Dirty Projectors


Dirty Projectors

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: In 2002, an Ivy League student recorded a quirky, yet promising album on a four-track in his bedroom.  He dropped out of school and moved to Brooklyn to pursue a music career, fueled by the modest buzz surrounding the release.

It’s an archetypal story, but it’s important to remember that all archetypes begin as something original and exciting; a testament to just how influential Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth has been over the past decade.

Swing Lo Magellan, Dirty Projectors’ seventh album, finds the band at a crossroads.  Key contributor Angel Deradoorian split, leaving Longstreth with the pressure of releasing the pivotal follow up to an album that has cruise ship-sized shoes to fill, his 2009 breakthrough, Bitte Orca, without his most senior collaborator.  The “on the cusp” success of Bitte Orca has primed the tenured Dirty Projectors to “make the leap” to Grammy Award-nominee mainstream acceptance (or recognition, to be more accurate), another increasingly archetypal plot line for indie bands in this day in age. Longstreth’s been at this project for a decade, now.  It’s make or break time.

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With three minutes of interview time remaining, the suddenly irritated Dean of Columbia Business School tells Inside Job’s director, Charles Ferguson, “Give it your best shot!” Ferguson does. Much like that interview, his film begins as a light, friendly discussion about the current financial crisis and quickly becomes an infuriating and unfiltered brawl between director and subjects. Though the recession may technically be over, the economy is still an enormous mess – one that Inside Job is ready to blame on everyone remotely accountable. “This is how it happened,” an opening title confidently proclaims. What follows is not only Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time,” but also the best and most essential documentary I’ve seen all year.

The financial meltdown of 2008 didn’t begin with Bush II, Clinton, or Bush I; it began even earlier, and the feat of clearly and comprehensively explaining who is to blame and why is a hefty one. Ferguson takes on this challenge, however, and (with Matt Damon at the microphone as narrator) interviews members from two camps: 1.) the people who say those involved in the meltdown did so out their own greed and committed indefensible acts and 2.) a selection of high-profile people actually involved in the meltdown who are incapable are defending their actions.

Smartly, Ferguson makes it clear that the breadth of the crisis is, in fact, difficult to grasp, and that admission is a major factor of Inside Job’s success as a slick and engrossing documentary. It never attempts to over-simplify the situation, instead choosing to treat its audience like adults. Snazzy graphs and charts are used (and animated) well, explaining complicated elements like derivatives in a way that admits their complicated nature while still defining them well enough to both follow the film and get angry while doing so.

And yes, despite its ultra-polished appearance, Inside Job is a very angry movie, but thankfully, not an obnoxious one. Whereas documentarian Michael Moore uses gimmicks on his subjects to make a point, Ferguson merely asks them questions. Lured into a false sense of security by the high production values, good lighting, and initial discussion, his subjects spend a great deal of the film’s final segments angrily fumbling through their responses or reacting with a stuttering silence to the questioning as it grows more direct, personal, and damning. This is a man who treats his subject and audience with the same amount of intelligence, making sure that both do some heavy thinking – and research – after the movie is over.

Inside Job was released today, which is also the day you should probably see it.

FILM REVIEW: The Social Network

The opening scene of The Social Network is so wordy, it begins while the Columbia Pictures logo is still on screen. We hear a young (he’s still young, by the way) Harvard undergrad named Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) repeatedly, though articulately, say the wrong thing to the girl he’s currently dating, a BU undergrad named Erica. It’s the first of The Social Network’s breathless moments, during which you have to remind yourself not to guffaw too loudly for fear of missing the next brilliant quip or secondarily embarrassing blunder. Though David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin have turned facebook’s “creation story” into one of the most entertaining movies of the year.

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Not Blood, Paint: band most likely to start a cult

Long before you arrive at a Not Blood, Paint show the rumours reach you. They are music, they are spectacle, they are hit ’n run theater, car crash club night, they are a disorientating re-imagining of what four men, five coats of make-up and accomplished musicality can do with a six by ten space.

Once Abe Lincoln showed up to assassinate an impostor Lincoln on stage, there was a duel, it was 1865. At Bizcon 2009, posing as businessmen sprinkling the secret to their success, the band were removed from the stage and cussed-out by an irate venue owner, suspicious that they weren’t really a band.

And it can be confusing, casual observers leave tonight not sure what just happened, some feeling like NBP have been inside their heads moving around the furniture, others wondering aloud: “have I just been punk’d?”

Tonight begins with sacramental wine, occult chanting and a swelling audience. Before long we are guided on laundromat flirtations, pantyhose washing one-liners, we get a how-to on histrionic four-part harmonies, witty interplay and languorous bass-lines and that’s just in “Watch Your Mouth”.

Beyond the immersive physical theater, beyond the site-specific improv and pageantry NBP sound as much post-punk as post-prog, as much pastiche as parody, they are a guided tour through a minefield of ambitious, dynamic melodies and assorted guilty pleasures. Not since the Horrors pillaged krautrock and post-punk has a band’s Vinyl collection been a subject of such insatiable scrutiny.

Tonight there is no need to preface your secret love of King Crimson’s “House of the Crimson King” with qualifiers, tonight you need not defend your “Mr Blue Sky” ringtone to indignant friends, tonight even Toto’s ‘Africa’ is welcome. Tonight is post-irony, let the chips fall where they may.

Following a directive from the band the NBP faithful, the so-called Not Fans, Painters or Paintbuckets, dance their asses off in glam, in glitter, in various metallics, in fur, in jewels, face-paint and masks. Rumor has it that a Bomb Squad producer is here tonight as a precursor to what one can only imagine would be a show-stopping future recording.

Somehow, behind the costuming, the breathtaking four part harmonies, beyond lead vocalists Joe Stratton and George Frye’s assured stage manner, the band manage to share the dynamic time-changes and dueling harmonies of the Dirty Projectors, the spastic inventiveness of neo-prog acts Yeasayer and Of Montreal, and the bombastic histrionics of MUSE or Queen all without falling into knowing clever-clever Pitchfork revisionism.

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From the Front Lines: Loreley Restaurant Williamsburg on Opening Night

Claiborne McDonald, a reader who contributed a review of the Delorean show earlier this week, writes in with a report from the scene at the new Biergarten last night.

On a block otherwise known for… well, nothing; an addition to the family of the Lower East Side biergarten “Loreley” (pronounced Lorelai, named for a Siren of German myth who led boats to crash on the banks of the Rhine) has finally hit the ‘burg, and surprise!: they haven’t changed their prices. Fenced in by a beautiful brick wall (resembling the Storefront for Architecture sculpture on Allen street) Loreley boasts an authentic German beer-garden feeling, replete with a good selection of brews and Essen to match. But at $7 for my Hefe Weiss, the patrons around me agreed– a good happy hour would do the place well. Nonetheless, if you want your German fix and have the cash to spend, this isn’t the worst spot to cool off in this summer (under the shadow of the BQE).

Thanks Claiborne! To the rest of you: if you find yourselves at the front lines of an event, opening, or show, and want to send in a review…do it! You can always find us at