I had to drive back to my parents’ house in Radford this past week to pick up some things to give to some friends. It was the most inescapably hot day that I have endured in a long time. Even with the air conditioner cranked up as far as I dared on the drive over, I still felt that muggy, sticky humidity of late summer that makes you feel like you’re walking through a tepid swimming pool.
The only thing that made my drive over to Radford endurable was the new album from the Dirty Heads, “Super Moon,” one of the best reggae bands working today, and I must say I would stand for an hour on the surface of Venus if it meant I could listen to a new album of theirs.
The Dirty Heads’ previous album, “Swim Team,” was one I quite enjoyed. This band’s solid mix of reggae, hip-hop and whatever else they feel like doing is a winning combination when executed by such skilled musicians as them. And now, as the blistering heat of summer begins to die down, the Dirty Heads released their newest album Sept. 6, on Five Seven Music, where we see the band truly leaning into their chill-out mode, leaning so far into it that they might as well be floating in midair.
One of the things that always made the Dirty Heads interesting was their ability to mix vocal styles over their accompaniment, trading off between rapping and traditional singing, or just leaning entirely into one or the other. The same goes for their arrangements as well. The opening title track is something of a hip-hop/reggae/Sergio Leone cowboy epic, and take that for the massive blast of awesome that it is.
An example of the band leaning in almost the exact opposite direction is the track “Lighthouse,” which takes the form of an easygoing acoustic ballad, full with string accompaniment as well. The following two songs, “Crow Bar Hotel” and “Slow Down,” both feature similar themes, forming a concluding trifecta that rounds out the entire album’s sense of happy-go-lucky uplift. I’ve noticed that so far I’ve used various forms of the word ‘lean’ in this review. I suppose that’s inevitable, considering just how much of a relaxing, and yet invigorating listen that “Super Moon” can be.
That being said, “Super Moon” does not represent an entirely vertical trajectory for the Dirty Heads. While it does have a lot to say, in the context of the band’s entire discography, this album doesn’t really feel like anything more than a few good jams. That might just be what the band was going for, but as a follow up to something as excellent as last year’s “Swim Team,” the album feels slightly insubstantial in relation to what came before it. By itself “Super Moon” is quite good, but I’ve come to expect more than just good from the Dirty Heads.
The album is comparatively brief, but on the whole that actually works in its favor, since it means that there is no part of the record that overstays its welcome, and its ideas are excellently compressed in such a way that soon enough you will be introduced to a new concept that the album is working with. I am all for this new trend of shorter albums, since by definition they cut out the self-indulgence of which a lot of album-oriented music is accused. That’s not to say that self-indulgence is impossible under these circumstances, but it does mean that, in the vast majority of cases, it is much less likely of an outcome.
Besides, indulgent isn’t the word I’d use for “Super Moon.” Rather, I would use the compound term “self-aware,” which is actually something that one could apply to most of the Dirty Heads’ work. They are perfectly aware that they are making some grade A party music, and they are having a blast doing it.
I give “Super Moon” three and a half out of five stars.