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