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Clip: Pittsburgh's Dirty Faces take a stand for the 'Superamerican'

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  • Carl Z.
    Pittsburgh s dirty faces take a stand for the Superamerican Thursday, October 27, 2005 By Ed Masley, Pittsburgh
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 30, 2005
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      <http://post-gazette.com/pg/05300/595464.stm>

      Pittsburgh's dirty faces take a stand for the 'Superamerican'

      Thursday, October 27, 2005
      By Ed Masley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

      T. Glitter's never listened to a Green Day album in his life.

      But there's a very real extent to which his latest record with the
      Dirty Faces, "Superamerican," was inspired by Green Day's "American
      Idiot."

      Not musically. It's far too punk, too punishing, too in-your-face for
      that. More lyrically, conceptually. He was hoping, he says, "to show
      another side of the story that a band like Green Day isn't capable of
      doing. It's not that I'm taking the opposite point of view. But I
      would say it's a more complex take, in my opinion. And I could be
      wrong because I've never sat down and listened to Green Day's album."

      Even so, he found it frustrating to see Green Day's album getting so
      much praise for being what he sees as liberal-by-the-numbers.

      "If you try to make a concept record and say the right politically
      correct things," Glitter says, "then people are going to fawn all over
      your album. But it's so easy to just paint in broad strokes like that,
      and I thought they were taking the easy way out."

      The Dirty Faces never toe the punk-rock party line on "Super-
      american," an album whose release they celebrate tonight with a show
      that's sure to rock the 31st Street Pub. When Glitter, also known as
      Terry Carroll, sings of being "held hostage like my brothers in Iraq,"
      he means his American brothers, not the hostages at Abu Ghraib.

      He even dedicates the album to the troops.

      "Everything post-9/11, the feelings, the emotions, the politics behind
      the idea of patriotism is something that has affected me in a lot of
      ways," he says. "I consider myself a patriot but at the same time, as
      a free-thinking individual, it's hard to go along with someone else's
      idea of patriotism, when you've sort of got your own idea. But it
      became a sort of catchphrase -- 'We're Superamerican' -- a way for me
      to label myself in opposition to other bands. We're a working class
      band, you know? That's a big part of who we are and what we do. You
      don't have these instruments you play and you don't have your job and
      you don't have your money without a larger system at work, and I felt
      like so much of what exists in the punk rock universe is so detached
      from the quote-unquote real world. And a lot of the knee jerk leftism
      was becoming really frustrating, although obviously, I'm not a
      right-winger either."

      Despite the dedication to the troops and the American flag inside the
      CD booklet, Glitter says he did his best to leave the album open to
      interpretation.

      "One day, 'Superamerican' can be a sort of patriotic kind of thought,"
      he says. "The next day, it can be a sort of subversive take. The song
      itself is not exactly a patriotic song, but at the same time, where my
      head's been at the last two years. You know what? I'm completely
      opposed to George Bush's presidency. But at the same time, almost
      anytime I'd see protestors on TV, they would just be sort of
      embarrassing to me. The whole approach and rhetoric just [bleeped] me
      off. A lot. And I probably would have more in common with the people
      on the left, but it's just tough because I feel like there's a lot of
      disengagement from reality going on on that side."

      The lyrics on "Superamerican," it should be noted, are only so
      political. He's just as likely to sing about sex. Or drugs. Or rock
      'n' roll.

      And the music is brilliant, pushing the post-punk envelope with one
      foot firmly grounded in the classic rock moves of the pre-punk past.
      "New Wicked Stepson" sets the stage with a maddeningly simple guitar
      riff that runs hypnotically through almost the entire track as bassist
      Tricky Powers, also known as Mike Bonello, nails the art-funk groove
      and Glitter sneers: "When I saw you at Jerry's, you was looking sweet
      enough for me to e-eat." Most songs rock with unmistakable intensity,
      from the sinister funk (with vibra-slap) of "Nosedive" through a
      savage new recording of the Faces' oldie "Cleopatra" to the very close
      relation of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that turns up in "Drug Free America."
      But then, they turn around and hit you with a slow song -- two or
      three times, really, starting with the haunting post-"Walk on the Wild
      Side" swagger of "A New Hope," punctuated by minimal organ swells, a
      jew's harp and cowbell as Glitter sets his scream aside to speak-sing
      his way through the narrative of the Faces' most infectious hour. And
      "High Holy Days" is even mellower, and hence more unexpected, a
      droning organ underscoring the entire track with female backing vocals
      adding to the dreamlike quality and Glitter sounding hurt and
      heartfelt even when he's spitting out a line as seemingly ridiculous
      as "Call me Mother [expletive] or you can just call me T."

      There were no slow songs when the band arrived in Brooklyn in October
      of 2003 with two days to record what was supposed to be a six-song
      vinyl EP for Rickety Worldwide, their Pittsburgh home. But they were
      still getting their money together for that when Kid Millions
      approached the band about signing to Brah, a new subisdiary of
      Jagjaguwar run by Millions and his bandmates in Oneida.

      As the legend goes, the members of Oneida got extremely drunk one
      night and decided to call Jagjaguwar insisting that they should be
      given a label. By the next day, they'd forgotten all about it when an
      e-mail arrived from Jagjaguwar taking them up on the offer. As for why
      they'd make a band from Pittsburgh their new label's first full-length
      release, Millions says it's because they're all fans of the Faces and
      have been for years.

      "They're one of the best bands I've ever seen, from the very
      beginning," says Millions. "Oneida played with the Dirty Faces back in
      1997 at the 31st Street Pub, and we were just totally blown away by
      their energy but also their rock 'n' roll charm and their humor, their
      songwriting, their performance. They had everything. You might call it
      a natural talent or ease with understanding what rock 'n' roll is, and
      it just comes across so effortlessly. I kind of get scared when I see
      them because it's like a car crash of emotional energy and furious
      pace. I never know what's gonna happen next. I'm always worried for
      Terry. It's like, is he gonna hurt himself again? I mean, he never
      does, at least that I've seen. But every time I've seen them. It's
      like they're putting on the show of their lives."

      The label wanted more songs, though, so earlier this year, the Faces
      drove to Erie in a blizzard and recorded four more songs, including
      the six-minute epic that closes the album, "Amplify (Like A Prayer)."
      It's rounded out with three tracks cut by lead guitarist Easy Powers
      (aka John Purse) in Pittsburgh.

      For a while, Glitter thought it might be something you could hear on
      stations like The X, but now he's not so sure.

      He hears The X working construction sometimes. "And 99 percent of it,"
      he says, "is total garbage, but at the same time, I hear little trends
      and feel frustrated because I feel like there's nothing really that
      those bands are doing that we're not doing, except that maybe we're
      doing it a little bit sloppier or a little bit smarter. And if I have
      an idea of something and I try to put product out there that's going
      to be a response to that or even try to compete with that, of course,
      it's not gonna come out that way. It's gonna come out very different
      and twisted, because that's just the way I do things. Even if I tried
      to make a straight commercial alternative record, it wouldn't come out
      that way. In fact, that's sort of my idea for the next one that's
      gonna come out, but it's not gonna be. It's gonna be something
      entirely different."

      He has two more Faces' album planned, the next one nine-tenths
      written. The concept next time, Glitter says, is either 10 two-minute
      songs or nine two-minute songs and one 10-minute epic. He's got a
      title too, "Get Right With God."

      As far as who might join him on the next one, Glitter says it could be
      the lineup that finished the album in Erie. After years of steady
      lineup changes, he's talking commitment.

      "I was happy to sort of have a revolving lineup," Glitter says. "But
      once we got Julie [Chill (or Leadfoot 'Breakadawn' Powers)] playing
      guitar, which was probably 2002, I've wanted to have a band and be a
      band. And we finally are a band now for sure. Everybody's loyal and
      dedicated."

      Even so, he says, "If anybody would decide to quit or anything would
      happen, it wouldn't matter because I know that Mike and I are gonna
      continue and Julie's gonna continue, and I used to kind of get off on
      the changing nature of the band. I still would, if that happened, but
      I'm also really happy just to have a group, you know? And play and be
      friends."
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