I was originally impressed with Dempsey when I heard ODB On The Run on the Channel 2 - A Compilation of Output Recordings released last year, because it contained a sample from The Johanna Group's Strange Love Action (which was featured on Luke Vibert's Nuggets disc) - and thanks to the Dempsey lead vocal came across as an outtake from Melvin Van Peeble's soundtrack to Sweet Sweetback's Bad Asssssssssss Song. So I was excited when I got a chance to give a listen to the Dempsey full-length debut album which was originally released in 2002.
It's an odd debut album when you come down to it. Split into two cds (titled Sunrise and Sunset, respectively) each disc clocks in at around 20 minutes a pop which led me to wonder at first if it was really a collection of 2 eps. The two discs also have Dempsey leadman Geoff Mcintyre working with Kieran Hebden (from Fourtet and Fridge) on the Sunrise disc, and Trevor Jackson (from Playgroup and Output) on the Sunset disc - with help also from Fridge members Sam Jeffers on drums and Adam Ilhan on bass.
It's odd too that this album has so much collaboration going on - because it sounds like a one man bed room recording, utilizing tasteful 60s samples and simple bass and rhythm tracks all done in a lo-fi Beck style. The end result sounds like a solo side project for the Brian Jonestown Massacre with a huge Rolling Stones influence throughout the two discs.
The fact that the album was split over two discs and each disc is only 20 minutes long does make me wonder why they couldn't just put the whole thing on one disc. Also, it being so lo-fi even with so much collaboration involved makes me wonder if they couldn't somehow make it a little tighter and effective overall in order to make it feel like one consistent work. It sounds like the demos for what could really have been a fantastic debut. Couple this with the fact that a couple of the songs have blatant Rolling Stone melody cops and we're in for a flawed but fascinating debut.
As it is presented, it's a great bit of Rolling Stones inspired retro Brit Pop (even though lead Dempsey man is US-born) which has the attitude, dopeness, rawness and some fine samples and riffs. It was an album that I really found myself enjoying a lot even with the flaws.
Highlights from Sunrise (disc one) include the previously mentioned ODB On The Run which has been floating around for a few years on compilations like Rough Trade Shops - Counter Culture 2002 and Channel 2 - A Compilation of Output Recordings - and as a rare 7 inch single (b/w Buzz, the first track on the second disc Sunset). It's a great way to start out.
Big Time has a laidback steady dope groove with flutes and harmonicas adding an improv jam feel. Sweet Fanny Adams has a quieter vibe with nice backwards guitar samples and a more country singer/songwriter vibe. What You Goin' on About has a Band country rock vibe.
Lil Poon Tang and Buzz both borrow from Rolling Stones melodies a bit too much. The first sounds like You Can't Always Get What You Want and the second sounds like Brown Sugar. My least favorite track on disc one is the last track called Feelin' Ace Sunrise - a mellow ballad which doesn't seem to go anywhere. Buzz does sound like it will get people shaking on the dancefloor.
A favorite from disc two is Down the Track - a tune which has a Mazzy Star sound to the music, a Dr John feel to the vocals and a slowed down beat. Forever (with a Spaceman 3 styled bassline and slapping bedroom rhythm) and Xtacy Pie (with a fuzzy downtempo Portishead sound) both have nice grooves and distorted lead vocals, but somewhat trite lyrics. Blue Star made me think of both The Rolling Stones' Ruby Tuesday and Ray Charles which was a unique connection I had never thought of before thanks to the descending cello line. An untitled bonus track ends disc two with a haunting two minute loop.