Review: The New Dress – Where Our Failures Are


Label: Red Leader Records

Released: October (?), 2007

One of the best recent trends in punk rock is the burgeoning punk/folk (or punk/roots or punk/country) movement. While this may seem to have its roots in bands like Uncle Tupelo and the Violent Femmes, that’s only partially true. Bands like This Bike is a Pipe Bomb and the amazing though little known Defiance, Ohio are at the forefront, but they aren’t the only game in town. The latest band to fuse punk rock not with early rock n roll, but with its deeper roots is Brooklyn’s the New Dress.

While some of the other bands have become so rootsy that they will likely alienate at least some listeners, the New Dress seems to strike a happy medium between accessible pop punk and the loose ramshackle folk whose spirit and technique they capture. Where Our Failures Are features nothing but two voices, of Bill Manning and Laura Fidler, and electric guitar. The simple guitar parts and lo-fi recording fit perfectly into the discord of their vocal harmonies.

The male-female vocal trade-offs at times butt up against each other like Shane MacGowan and Kristy MacColl’s “Fairytale of New York,” yet at others they work together in a strange out-of-sorts harmony. The influence of early Billy Bragg is clear even before the cover of “I Don’t Need This Pressure Ron” comes up. They certainly have adopted some of Bragg’s phrasing and simplicity, but more importantly, they have captured his ability to write very human social commentary.

It is their old time approach that focuses on feeling rather than technique that makes this plugged-in album more traditional than many albums with all acoustic instrumentation. They aren’t a copy of the past. Like the best of their peers, they have brought the essence of the past into the present.

Rating: 8/10

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About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

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