Craig Dermody’s second album is curiously timeless. With grungy vocals and twanging, almost industrial guitars and often knowingly trivial or tongue-in-cheek subject matter, it could have been written and recorded any time in the last 25 years. True to his moniker, frontman Dermody originally hails from Australia, but now lives in New York – a perfect marrying of laid back attitude and early ’90s NYC guitars.
Dermody and co have seen a bit of a releasing frenzy recently, with record label Critical Heights reissuing their debut album, Para Vista Social Club (and rightfully so – when it was originally released a couple of years ago it was limited to just 200 copies, each with a Dermody-painted cover) and follow up EP Two Weeks. Striking while the iron’s hot, Fire Records are pushing out their first fresh material for over two years, and those who enjoyed the last two collections won’t be disappointed.
Like its predecessors, it’s a drawling lo-fi record, with plenty of reference points – think Pavement, The Lemonheads, even the rakier moments of The Pixies and The Stooges – and more recently the likes of Yuck and The History Of Apple Pie – but this time it’s ever so slightly more melodic, with some ear worms that stay wriggling long after the last track has clicked off.
Dermody specialises in the personal, somewhat mundane dramas and up and downs of daily life. With Any Port In A Storm, he documents his move from Melbourne to NYC to follow a girl, and gives us a peek into his diary, where we first join him for opener Junk Shop, as he’s desperately looking for a job. We follow his upbeat jamming and squalling guitars which bely what are often quite down in the dumps lyrics. Dermody paints himself as a down on his luck, hapless slacker…in equal parts grinning, dry witted, fed up and at odds with the world.
Fakin’ NYC, for example, sees him struggling to get to grips with his new home, with no one to turn to: “I tell everyone I’m fine,” he tells us, an air of panic slipping through his usually dismissive, nonchalant voice. Lesbian Wife sees him pouring his heart out – quite literally; the vocals tumble from his mouth, clattering against the angular, jutting guitar – about missing Melbourne. But it’s not all self-indulgent – Gammy Leg is a brilliantly warm, sing-a-long track, while Charlie’s In The Gutter is a dry slice of slacker rock that owes much to The Replacements.
Dermody perhaps sums up his ethos best on Jackie Boy, when he sings: “When you’ve got nothing left, you’ve still got rock ‘n’ roll.” While Any Port In A Storm is unlikely to make a superstar out of Dermody, it definitely feels like the arrival of a new cult hero.