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Although not poppy in the traditional sense, Kirkwood Dellinger employs a psychedelic-pop sensibility, mixing in influences from mid-period Beatles to prog rock to Dr. Dre. Take an adventurous new song like "Plants and Animals," as yet unreleased and featured in demo form on the band's MySpace page. Hearing its majestic chord progression and monolithic sound may make you think of prog rock, but its block harmonies are the dreamy stuff of power pop.
"Majestic, see? That's what I was going for," says Kirkwood. "It's kind of corny, but if you put a groovy bass behind it then the majestic gets less corny and it doesn't sound majestic like Chick Corea or the Moody Blues. You can avoid that shit. I was thinking of Can or Yes with that bass line."
Or a song like "The Other Child," which features percussion that sounds a washing machine but is actually Dellinger mouthing a beat into a mic, sent through a phase shifter. And like Ween, a band that neither K nor D ever listens to, Kirkwood Dellinger can write an unashamed dance pop song when it wants to — like "New Juice," which amounts to Kirkwood "trying to steal a Dr. Dre thing with the keyboards. Like a Mary J. Blige track."
"Our shit is for music geeks, I'm positive, because we have so many reference points," says Kirkwood. "Even some of the melodies and chords are not dug from the same graveyard as everything else you hear. I think I can say that it doesn't sound like too many other bands.
"I think our shit's catchy . . . but weird."
This devolves into a discussion of some of the great hit-and-miss bands of all time, bands that have albums with one great song surrounded by a pile of dog shit. Kirkwood volunteers such alternative-rock sacred cows as The Pixies, REM, The Misfits, and even Meat Puppets.
"You mean albums that suck except for three songs, like Mirage, Huevos, or Monsters, which sucks except for one song?"
Even the last album, the reunion that Elmo Kirkwood helped make happen ("I just told my dad that Kris wasn't a douchebag anymore, which is a half-truth, especially in our family"), doesn't escape a son's scrutiny. It's probably this frankness that led Meat Puppets to enlist his aid as co-producer on their upcoming album.
"I like the idea of the songs, but the last record's sound was tacky, like someone did it on the motherfuckin' Cakewalk. Curt likes to do things really quick. Almost too quick, to where he doesn't give a shit about the end result. Here's a bullshit drumbeat, and he doesn't care, whereas you can take five more seconds and put a groovier drumbeat in. Shitty vocals, they can always get away with that. I shouldn't be saying these things, but, fuck, it's my dad. I can be as much of a critic as I want. But the new one's really pretty."
That kind of perfectionism has yet to infect Kirkwood Dellinger's recordings — which is obvious in everything from the back-trunk distribution of Beast Boy down to the homemade packaging of their Miniature Stallion EP, released this past summer. It indicates a tentativeness, that it all will be a thing of the past before long. But there's no doubt this band will likely figure things out, bust a few big moves, very, very soon.
"We're pretty much convinced we're the most important band in the world," says Kirkwood before breaking into a shrug. "I know that sounds conceited. Because we are."