Aconfident and somewhat unexpected step forward from their self-titled 2003 release, Dressy Bessy’s Electrified finds the Denver-based quartet moving beyond the ‘60s-mod gimmickry that, upon repeat listens, siphoned the charm from their earlier work. Dressy Bessy hasn’t abandoned mod (Electrified‘s color-saturated packaging makes that abundantly clear even before the album begins), but the greater variety of song styles tackled on the album no longer confine the band’s sound or tie them too tightly to a gimmick. Instead, like The White Stripes first did on De Stijl, Dressy Bessy uses Electrified to define for themselves a specialized aesthetic that, while narrow, still allows room to maneuver. The album marries the band’s punchy brand of hook-dense power-pop to a low-fi production that doesn’t mask the occasional crack in frontwoman Tammy Ealom’s vocals. Ealom’s low-affect delivery is a perfect fit with the band’s hip remove, so when she breaks form to emphasize a particular phrase—“You think you’ve fallen in love once/So what the hell are we doing?” on “Small,” for instance—it’s all the more effective, as potent as the power chords supporting her. The production also emphasizes the strength of the band’s adventurous rhythm section, bassist Rob Greene and drummer Craig Gilbert; Electrified‘s sound doesn’t dovetail in any meaningful way with current trends in post-dance-punk, but the rhythmic hooks, particularly on “Stop Foolin’,” “Try Try Try Again,” and “Ringalingaling,” are so effective that fans of Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, or The Killers would nonetheless find plenty to like about the album. While there’s a definite sense of in-studio spontaneity to Electrified, the album’s only significant flaw is that the songs sound restrained in their current form, which earns Dressy Bessy’s current club tour an unqualified recommendation, given the band’s phenomenal live-show rep, but which earns Electrified something just shy of such an endorsement. Still, so much of the album sounds like happy that attempts at criticism feel fundamentally mean. Considering the growth Dressy Bessy has shown since their last outing, though, that may not be a point of concern for long.
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