The Dust-Ups “The Dust-Ups”

Independent, 2024

A lively debut that offers both fun and great traditional musicianship.

“I did time in Guatemala, was a king in Peru / Everywhere I went I was loving you,” sings Dust-Ups frontman Ryan Chatelain on ‘Only Good Thing’, the opener to the band’s debut album. “In the California sun and Appalachian rain / I’m keeping steady on you like a downbound train,” he further continues: “Full steam ahead, I just wanna be where you are.” Given the New Jersey-based band formed post-Covid-19 outbreak, it’s no surprise to hear Chatelain has travel on his mind.

One of the most instantly distinctive factors when it comes to The Dust-Ups is Chatelain’s voice: high with a wavering, slightly nasal quality, it’s one part Michael Stipe and another Daniel Johnston in a way that might divide listeners, but it gives an interesting alt-indie bent to even the most classically Americana of songs.

“Left town in the desert heat / .410 lying across the seat / The trees are bare and the air is sweet,” Chatelain tells us on ‘Abilene’, one hell of a murder ballad that moonlights as a rock song. “Pounding on her daddy’s door / Just couldn’t take it anymore / Shotgun blast, we fled the scene / Somewhere west of Abilene,” he adds as the kicker, before we’re treated to a musical breakdown with an electric guitar solo of frankly epic proportions. ‘Sad Old Songs’, a classic acoustic breakup song, dials the tone down significantly, but still it remains effective for what it is. On the pedal steel heavy ‘Good For You’, it feels like Chatelain is racing against the clock to fit as many reasons as he can that he could be the one into a song – think of it like a kind of a love sick ‘It’s The End of the World As We Know It’ by R.E.M..

“And I don’t sleep past noon then reach right for the booze / The clouds ain’t dark, it ain’t all bad news / After months of hell, I finally see the light,” come Chatelain’s words with joyous relief on ‘What Getting Over You Looks Like’, a bright blast of country-rock mixed with power-pop featuring the kind of infectious beat that makes it impossible not to move. ‘Lord and Saviour’ is a fairly familiar ramble about hating your job and wanting to blow off some steam at the weekend, while ‘Evangeline’ sees the band pay a lively homage to Cajun music.

Somewhat unexpected, but surprisingly welcome all the same, ‘Western Sky’ sees the band flirt with surf rock while showcasing some of the best lyrics on the album: “And ain’t it strange how time can fade like a key dropped in the grass? / The days are long and then you’re gone like a cigarette burned to ash.” On the boppy ‘Dynamo’, Chatelain tackles the eternal woes of a rambling man: “Another city, another town / It’s another chance to pick my sorry head up off the ground / I wish that I was on the run / So I’d have somewhere to go.”

Chatelain recently summed up the Dust-Ups debut release by saying: “We set out to make an album that was upbeat and catchy and fun. If listening to it helps make someone’s day just a little better, then we’ve succeeded.” I think it’s fair to say that that mission has definitely been accomplished.

7/10
7/10

About Helen Jones 135 Articles
North West based lover of country and Americana.
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