Alex Zhang Hungtai, aka Dirty Beaches channels his music through a cattle chute of nostalgia. Born in Taiwan, but never having a settle home, Hungtai moved around for most of his life due to a separated family. Five years ago, he moved to Montreal to pursue his solo efforts after being fired from a metal band for “trying to sing like David Bowie”. Since then, he’s released three 7” singles and a verified full-length titled Badlands. It’s a dust covered montage of a drugged up Elvis performing to a late-night crowd. Badlands is only eight tracks long; each a lo-fi drift on a night road. It includes a cover of a Patti Smith song (“Horses”) done to trilling perfection, and a jungle beat prowler (“Sweet 17”). There are lighter and upbeat moments though, filled with all of the old-timey tricks from the 1950’s: elongated non-verbal lady choruses and confessions of love done by prose. “Lord Knows Best”, a lovely twiddle on your mind, features a sample from a Francoise Hardy track called Voila. According to Hungtai, the record is kind of a two-sider:
“Side A will be all bangers, with songs about leaving, and being chased on the road, and driving a burning car into oblivion. Side B will be ballads, and dirges laced with murder and lament”
The whole album sounds as if you’re taking a fleeting peek into a world through a hole in the wall; a drug induced trek through a time warp. You’ll see and feel things from the past, but it’ll be in 35mm film. It’s perfect for an angry moonlight escape.
(Badlands is available now from Zoo Music)