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Review: On 'Sound of Change,' Dirty Heads liven up laidback vibe

The Dirty Heads perform a sold-out show in St. Pete on Friday.

The Dirty Heads perform a sold-out show in St. Pete on Friday.

With Sound of Change, the Dirty Heads charge up their signature laidback rock-rap with big, beat-dropping instrumentals that crash and groove around club-ready rhythms.

The California quintet is best known for their chart-topping 2010 radio hit Lay Me Down, off their debut album Any Port In A Storm. They've since released two more records while aggressively touring, including regular stops in Tampa Bay, like Friday's show at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg.

A concoction born of the punk sunshine of Sublime and the brassy bravado of the Beastie Boys, the Dirty Heads aim to make a statement to their fans and the music industry with their latest release, which recently peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard alternative and independent rock charts.

This fourth studio effort from the Dirty Heads has a modern and youthful swagger. On 13 tracks featuring producers and guest vocalists like Tech N9ne, Supa Dups (Bruno Mars, Collie Buddz) and Rome Ramirez (Sublime with Rome), the Dirty Heads leave aside their comfortable, acoustic bonfire vibe.

Instead, they enter a sonic landscape texturized with heavy beats that intermingle with expanding harmonies, wet reverb effects, springy guitar strums and booming percussion. Perfect for lustful summer listening.

Sound of Change opens strong with a title track that launches the album into an anthemic orbit. Listeners familiar with DH — lead by Dustin "Duddy B" Bushnell, Jared "Dirty J" Watson and outfitted by Jon Olazabal (percussion), Matt Ochoa (drums) and David Foral (bass) — will recognize the uplifting conviction bouncing through the verses. "You're building it up / They're tearing it down / Wanna to give up / Keep holding your ground/ You're turning it up / They're deaf to the sound / Oooh the sound of change," Watson howls. Tension-building guitar strums melt into an ambient bass line infused with a drum-bashing back beat.

Cue some record player static and an echoing chorus line that drops into a fat bass section, and the album hits its danceable second note with My Sweet Summer. It's a sexy track great for nights spent frolicking around Florida. Bushnell has a smoky and smooth delivery through the tune's verses, in which he tells the tale of a summer fling gone bye-bye: "Yeah she left in the morning, gone without warning / Fun while it lasted, lost in the moment / She played me real good, took me for a ride / Now she's off on an airplane, back to real life."

Other notable tracks include the love ballad End of the World; funky and freaky groove Hear You Coming; and Franco Eyed, with its silly reference to actor James Franco's natural state of looking, well, stoned.

But the final track disappoints. Running for Your Life has a female vocal that needs to be less Miley Cyrus rasp and more Ellie Goulding smooth. It leaves the end of the album feeling unpolished and gimmicky. With this super-charged sonic adventure, the Dirty Heads continue to reach for new horizons while singing about what they know. It's to be expected from an evolving band that exists off the grid of the industrial music machine.


Grade: A

If you go

The Dirty Heads and Pepper perform a sold-out show 7 p.m. Friday at Jannus Live, 200 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 565-0550.

Review: On 'Sound of Change,' Dirty Heads liven up laidback vibe 07/29/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 8:12pm]
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