The growling, sneering, sardonic, heavy rock music on Mr. Dream‘s Trash Hit is noted mostly for being an amalgamation of influences (Shellac/Big Black, Jesus Lizard, Nirvana at its wildest, but most notably the Pixies). There are moments on the record that evoke each influence so directly and succinctly that it’s impossible to not smile and shake your head. For so many bands, this obvious sort of aping comes across as either an attempt to win over a fanbase or a lack of originality, but Mr. Dream puts these sounds together in often unexpected combinations, winding up with songs that are as fresh as they are unnervingly familiar. To that end, Trash Hits is an effort of powerful song-crafting, expert mining of the past, and thunderous, bottom-heavy post-punk.
The drum clacking and sumo-heavy/ballerina-lithe bass on the opening/title track are impressive, but Moerder’s vocals amp up the deja- vu. “It’s lamentable, and it’s not exactly my cup of tea but what the hey,” he rattles off with Jesus Lizard vocalist David Yow’s gruff snarl and Shellac/Big Black frontman Steve Albini’s anxious, ranting delivery. The jagged guitar chords and droll delivery (followed by a scream) of the chorus “These stupid kids, they like their old time rhythms, they’ve got their bag of tricks” is straight Frank Black and the Pixies. The brief, punchy, two-minute-long “Crime” follows, a worthy single with aggressive, shout-along vocals and thundering, rapid kit work courtesy of Nick Sylvester.
Later, a reference to someone who “had no face” on “Scarred For Life” seems a more direct Pixies reference, while the swarming guitar could be any of those aforementioned influences. Whichever you choose, it’s a rambunctious, thriving track full of manic energy. “Holy Name” chops by on Nirvana guitar chords and screamed chanting of the word “Seven!” (“And god is”…?), the whole thing lifted from a sort of Platonic back catalog of 90′s post-rock. Matt Morello’s writhing bassline on “Shotgun Tricks” drives forward as the backgrounded moan and foregrounded shout of the song’s title ring out in the way that so many good Pixies choruses did. “Walter”, on the other hand, is a Jesus Lizard echo, driving rhythm section, “Mouth Breather”-style lyrics, and maniac grinning vocals. Later, “Winner” brings back the Albini vocals, words not seeming to come fast enough at places, falling out in flurries of unpaced madness.
“Knick Knack” comes out of nowhere, its more straight-forward structure and less fuzzed-out instrumentation a big change of pace from the rest of the disc, but the high-flying riffs and oddball lyrics could make for a real radio hit if there were any justice in the world (though its lyrics are of questionable content). “Croquet” could be a B-side from the Pixies, circa Trompe Le Monde, its simple yet effective drum pattern leaving room for distorted, wild vocals and matching, fuzzed-out guitar shocks to steal the day. “Learn the Language” closes out like a Shellac “ballad”, its slow, droning drum pattern, fuzzy bass, self-deprecating lyrics, and chaotic guitar noise demanding a head nod.
Simply put, these guys know what they’re doing, both in their knowledge of their instruments and influences, and in their use of both. By exploiting the past, and hitting every effective mark, Mr. Dream are getting those same effects along with that warm nostalgia that comes along with finding a long lost favorite. Trash Hit seems as if it erupted from a golden age of rough-hewn post-punk without the affect that would seem necessary to pull something like that off. It’s genuine in its apery, controlled in its messiness, powerful in all aspects; a fun, nostalgic listen throughout.