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Album review: Debut Dirty Horse LP is a heapin' helpin' of rock goodness

Wait a minute — this is Dirty Horse's first album? Haven't they been around for a long time? Turns out, the answers are "yes" and "yes."

Sometimes, that's the way it goes, though. You start a band, put out an EP in 2011, and, before you know it, seven years have slid past you like you're in a dream where you can't skate, but you're a goalie, and you're playing against the 1984 Edmonton Oilers, and Gretzky isn't just a player, but he's Father Time, and the puck itself is your life.

Or something.

Anyhoo, Dirty Horse is meat-and-potatoes rock music. Which, really, is how it's supposed to be. Far too many bands that pass for "rock" in 2018 are really just wet-blanket indie kids who are more more interested in twiddling knobs and going "Whoa" at some analog reverb than writing songs that move the body and soul. But, here comes Dirty Horse, not being that way.

Their self-titled release is a kick in the pants, and that's especially the case, considering they're from Duluth. It's not that it's punk or metal or hardcore or anything — far from it, actually. But it's got a strong Budweiser feel. This is not some fussed-over microbrew, where the band is encouraging you to sniff their grace notes. There's just something comforting about it, something basic but not dumb. These guys just want you to chug-a-lug and get down.

First track "Documents" is an easygoing track with interlocking single-note guitars that recall The Strokes, but the song isn't some New York hipster thing — it finds lead singer Nate Case (who, as you'll recall, is a key figure from last week's Lowland Lakers review) claiming that his unpaid bills keep him warm, and then it transitions into a dreamy section that sounds a fair amount like the Grateful Dead. Not for long, though. The band cracks on, whipping up some synth-aided drama that then leads right into the careening "Radio."

This one's gotta be one of the best tracks a Duluth band will put out in 2018. First things first: Rio Daugherty is a killer drummer, and his playing on this track is on point. He propels the whole deal, and some of his rat-a-tat fills going in and out of the song's components are like something off a Queens of the Stone Age album where Joey Castillo was behind the kit. Solid, solid stuff.

The tune itself has a monster hook, even though it is basically a pun and doesn't make much sense. "I scream, you scream," sings Case, "we all scream for radio." But it's not about the words so much as it is about the fact that it is melodically strong, Case sings it with a sense of urgency and repeats it many times, and the band turns the tune into an aerodynamic, sleek thing. By the end of the song, when it sounds like Case is actually singing "we all stream for radio," all that's left is that feeling when a choice rock song ends: what was that? What was that person talking about? That was pretty catchy. Let's play it again.

The band's really good. That's all there is to it. Killer guitars, killer drums, killer hooks. They do other styles — R&B, hippie-country, Crazy Horse grunge — but it's all done extremely well. In fact, only a few of the record's eight songs needed to go by before it was clear that Dirty Horse has made one of the best local albums of 2018. If you believe in rock 'n' roll, this band will strengthen your faith.

Artist: Dirty Horse

Album: "Dirty Horse"

Recorded at: Wondertone Recording Studios by Joe Alaspa


Personnel: Nate Case (guitar, vocals), Brian Wells (bass), Andy Olmstead (guitar), Rio Daugherty (drums)

Upcoming show: 9:30 p.m. tonight with Prone at Rex Bar, 600 E. Superior St.

Tickets: $10

Click here to listen to "Radio."