The Dirty Faces master the art of falling apart

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Juli Werner
The Dirty Faces have just released "Get Right With God," the second CD in a planned trilogy that began with "SUPERAMERICAN."
By Ed Masley

Tricky Powers knows some Dirty Faces fans are in it for the train wreck -- for those moments of sheer chaos where the band is barely hanging on, where sloppy would require more finesse. One recent night in Pittsburgh, for example, they find themselves starting the set without T. Glitter, whose role, as luck would have it, is to front the band. So finally, he staggers in completely out of it and Leadfoot Powers takes off her guitar and starts attacking him on stage. It's more performance art than rock 'n' roll, but real, not staged. They couldn't stage this if they tried.

"There is an entertainment factor to watching the trainwreck," Powers says, "whereas if you're inside the train as it's wrecking, it's a different perspective."

Still, he understands why other people like it.

"That falling apart while staying together tension," he figures, "is one of the strong points of this kind of music."

It can be a real challenge, though, staying together while falling apart, especially on those occasions where you've gone the extra mile and piled that chaos in a van.

As Powers sizes up the touring situation, "Sometimes, we have legal issues. Sometimes, we have hospitalization issues. Things can get a little crazy sometimes. It's a challenging group of people to keep together and get out and be productive with."

Which makes it kind of weird that they somehow -- amazingly -- kept it together long enough to have "Get Right With God," their second Brah! Records release, hit the streets just a year after "SUPERAMERICAN." It's a punishing assault, an attitude-spewing explosion of primal art-punk riffs and tortured howls that's somehow even more intense than last year's model, somehow even more like joining Fight Club without learning how to fight. Unless you count the slower, more hypnotic tracks that almost groove like early Funkadelic without straying into funk. For "Punkin Pie," they called in former member Dickie Powers and longtime drummer God-of-Fortune Powers to blow the dust off an unreleased oldie. But the rest of the album was cut with the lineup that fell into place in the third round of sessions for "SUPERAMERICAN," one notable distinction being that they've moved their second drummer, Bloody H. Powers, to keyboards.

"When we started to record, we had two drummers," Powers says, "and it was just a struggle. In the studio, you hear it when the bass drum hits aren't synched up, stuff like that, whereas when you're blowing it out in a club, you don't really notice."

This record is also the second installment of a Dirty Faces trilogy started with "SUPERAMERICAN."

As Power explains, "The plan is for the next one to be 'Underground Economy.' So that would be the State, the Church and the Machine. So the connecting thread would be the world, or at least our world."

Once you get beyond the title, though, there's really not that much religion going on here, not unless you count the cult of Rocky Bleier. Built around a Stonesy blues-punk riff that sounds like "Bitch" caught in a crossfire hurricane on its way to a Pussy Galore show, "Rocky Bleier" finds T. Glitter testifying that he wants to "live life just like Rocky Bleier."

Powers says he has to figure out a way to get a copy of the song to Bleier. Not that he would like it. Powers just thinks he should probably hear it at some point.

The official release date for "Get Right With God" is still two weeks away.

But they'll be celebrating early here in Pittsburgh with a 31st Street Pub bill that feels like a homecoming dance for the Rickety scene that held down Thursday nights there for a few years in the '90s, with the reunited Human Brains and Skinks, a new band led by former Dirty Face Chris Cannon, rounding out the bill. As much as Powers may be into playing up the Rickety nostalgia of tonight's release show, though, he knows the Dirty Faces of 2006 are a completely different animal than the Faces of "Covered in Lime," their 1998 debut.

"This band has its own sound," he says. "I mean, it's related to what we sounded like before but it is different. We've just tried to keep the attitude the same, 'cause really I think this is an attitude band."


Ed Masley is a freelance writer based in Phoenix.


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