i’ve never thought of the dirty three as anything other than a rock band. but perhaps my consciousness of any kind of label left long ago. so when i listen to this album again, their second, it hits home just how mind-bending mick turner’s guitar performance can be, especially when backed up with jim white playing more straightforward rhythms on the drums. when combined with warren ellis playing his violin as though he were possessed by some other force (which, to be fair, is how he’s always played), the oddness of a rock night in the armchair becomes all the more apparent.
it’s still repetitive, hypnotic, but in a different way to pretty much everything from ocean songs onward until considerably more recent albums. for one thing, there are a number of other instruments in play here that did not return until later, like the piano accordion and harmonica. you see the name phil mckellar on the sleeve, and that’s a bit of a give-away. i first saw his name attached to you am i, and he has produced records for a veritable “top ten” list of australian bands, especially in the 1990s. rock makes sense.
i was brought back to this album for a quite particular reason tonight. i sat on the lounge room floor in front of my cds laid out before me, in rows and stacks. now’s the time to come clean that i have little order to them, and certainly nothing approximating alphabetisation. the neighbours of cds are of kind, where close links exist between artists and weave each compartment together somehow. as i perused, i thought; is there an artist i have not yet listened to? the answer to that would have been a resounding yes, but my eye caught the bloc of dirty three albums, and i could not turn away.
i had just finished watching the first main public appearance of our former prime minister, julia gillard, since she had “left politics”. it was also the first time in over three months that i did not want to instantly turn the television off, for avoidance of politics and, more importantly, politicians.
hearing her speak so eloquently and thoughtfully, and without any apparent bitterness or resentment, gave me a sense of hope i’ve not had for even longer. and on the day she ceased to be our prime minister back in june, the only thing i could bring myself to listen to was everything’s fucked off this album.
now i felt that i could approach the whole album, which doesn’t wholly leave one with a sense of helplessness (such as may have been implied by the resignation of a song like everything’s fucked). on parallel for beauty is kim’s dirt; connection of course to the preeminent kim salmon. over very simple, quiet and warm chord work, you hear the occasional brush of jim’s snare and warren’s harmonics and plucking. it’s a song you would happily listen to forever (which helps that it goes some of the way towards the infinite at almost twelve minutes).
i still understand and don’t understand, in equal measure, why some people never grasp what the dirty three do, and why they affect so many. i want to think on this more – how music that has no obvious emotional cues (cf. lyrics) can achieve more than most spoken or written words of any musician, author or poet.
yes, these guys are on the top of any list i could ever be asked to make.
[whole album follows, with large gaps between songs – skip to 31:00 for kim’s dirt in particular]