Dirty Three is an Australian instrumental rock band that got started in 1992. They’ve released eight proper albums, including a new one this year. Their three members are Australian, but they live about as far away from each other as possible. Frontman and violin mad genius Warren Ellis, 47, lives in Paris. Guitarist Mick Turner lives in Melbourne. Drummer Jim White lives in New York City. I don’t know if it’s by design that they live so far apart, but they do.
Sure, this is fundamentally “rock” music. It might even be punk rock. However, the lead instrument is a freakin’ violin. Which is badass. Ellis was classically trained on the violin and went to a boarding school to pursue music studies. He’s got a degree in Music and another in English, so he’s a really bright guy. And, apparently, very eccentric. Some photos I’ve seen of him with long hair and a crazily unkempt beard make him look like a hobo, or a demented mad man. That makes him a little more interesting. Or more frightening.
Even when songs have lyrics, there’s often wildly differing opinions about what the song is “about”. When the songs are instrumental as all of Dirty Three’s are, you have to completely guess. You have to infer a lot from the song titles. Which can be fun. Or harrowing. Once in a while, we get some jerk who comes out and tells us what the instrumental song that he wrote is about. It ruins all the fun. Or sometimes it makes it more fun.
Have a listen for yourself:
“Some Summers They Drop Like Flys” by Dirty Three
I heard Warren Ellis say about this song:
(It’s) about coming home and finding everyone dead one summer. You realize that that’s going to bum you out for about five minutes until you decide to go out and buy a whole lot of glue and psychedelic drugs and send yourself on an incredibly depressing psychedelic spiral that ends up with a cure of prescription pills … and you bury yourself in a pot of your own vomit
I’m guessing that he was on something at the time that he said that. Or maybe that’s just “Warren being Warren”. Weird and a little creepy. I don’t know.
Anyway, about the song…
It starts out all slow and dark and gloomy. There’s several bars of the same thing. At 2:44, there’s a change. The violin bit gits “lighter”, and there are several layers of violin there. At 3:31, it’s back to the same bit from the beginning, except it’s spiced up with some plucked violin. That only lasts a short bit, then the drums and guitar and everything changes.
There’s a slow build from there. Everything gets peppier and brighter and louder and faster. It’s no longer scary or sad. It’s sexy. It builds and builds to an anticlimactic apex at 5:55. Nothing happens there. It just sort of fizzles out. No exciting punctuation. No descent after cresting the hill. It just dies.
It’s always been one of my favorite Dirty Three songs, and it’s kind of strange now that I’ve heard Ellis’ explanation of it.
You can buy Whatever You Love, You Are and other albums directly from the band’s web store. When you’re doing your Dirty Three shopping, take into consideration that the default currency is AUD, and that USD and AUD are almost dead even at exchange.
This last bit isn’t “extra credit”. I’m afraid it’s “required viewing”. Check out this astonishing video of the guys playing “Some Summers They Drop Like Flys” in concert. Obviously the best bits are in the second half of the song, but don’t be so impatient as to skip ahead. Watch the whole thing.
If you’re not left gasping for breath, searching for a glass of water and a cigarette after that, I’m not going to be able to do much to help you.