Dirty Pretty Things

So, Is this it? Apparently it is.
Dirty Pretty Things announced their split. What was, until few days ago, just another tour from Carl Barat & Friends to promote their second album, it turned out to be their last.

One thing is for sure. BaratDoherty and the entire world revolving around them – have the best PRs in UK.

In these weeks that have seen the death of Rick Wright, the news that Michael Eavis and bloody Kings of Leon denied his wish to play a last Pink Floyd concert at Glastonbury, the split of The Long Blondes due to guitarist Dorian Cox health problems, I sincerely find quite difficult to be touched by Dirty Pretty Things split.

The media got the news with such a perfect timing. Days before the start of a tour that didn’t do very well in presale, with an album that hasn’t sold, cynics saw in these revelation a last attempt to cash some more money before it is too late.

When From Waterloo to Anywhere came out a couple of years ago I was pleasantly surprised. Songs worked quite well. Carl Barat is intelligent and Gary Powell majestic enough, they looked the ones destined to carry on the Libertines legacy leaving to Pete Doherty just the role of tabloids’ buffoon.

The formula was simple, effective and well tried out: three minutes songs, fast rhythms, jangling guitars and Barat’s voice to remember everyone he was a Libertine. Rossomando gave an edge to guitar parts that Doherty clearly couldn’t and The Cooper Temple Clause bassist (how I miss this band?) was much more present than the anonymous Libertines‘ bassist (Who was him?).

Things aren’t as rational as my scientific mind would like. A brilliant production and a better guitarist helped the second Babyshambles album to come out quite good and, despite they are still a pretty unreliable live band, Doherty charisma his enough to pay out in these recession times.

Dirty Pretty Things second album, Romance at a short notice, suffers of a wrong production and failed both critically and on CD sales.
The new songs aren’t any close from the previous which were not brit-pop masterpieces nevertheless I find it quite enjoyable.
On Romance… tempos slow down, guitars are not sharp and bright as you would expect, the sound isn’t spiky and direct. It is actually quite round, big and clumsy.

I wonder such a “big sound” was aimed to conquer the USA. Live tonight they reminded me of some stoner rock from California desert or Seattle golden age.
Whether it was planned or a coincidence, it didn’t work. Not only they haven’t got in the USA but they have even lost London. English fans are more implacable than English music press. The number of new bands is so high that one is ready to step forward at the first sign of someone’s weakness.

The split was obvious and as much obvious was the start of the rumours about The Libertines reunion. Will this be happening?
People talks about it, band members deny strongly. To me is a good sign, two faces of the same coin.
The main problem will be to convince fans that it is a credible and authentic comeback. Indie fans can tolerate many things, even bad songs, but they will never accept something that smells of a marketing operation lead by NME.
We know their PRs are among the best you can have so I wouldn’t be surprised to see they found a key. Summer festivals are quite far, there is time to prepare a strategy.

So far, the news of the split, if it was a trick, worked just partially. Cambridge Junction almost sold out but the band didn’t seem to have that injection of vigour coming from the announcement.
Dirty Pretty Things looked more like a “dead band walking” that someone happy to close a period in style.

When I saw them on the debut tour there was plenty of reciprocal enjoyment, they worked for the songs and for the fans. Tonight the band is disunited, more than a group they are four individuals playing a bit bored. They looked more like employees seeking a new job that rockstars. More of an audition than a concert.

Brit indie-rock isn’t living its best epoch but curiously it has the best drummers.
Gary Powell, with Bloc Party’s Matt Tong and the Arctic Monkey Matt Helders, belongs to a tradition of drummers with a certain Keith Moon as granfather.

A band as the Dirty Pretty Things, doesn’t need drum kit that seem to come from the Yes line-up circa 1973. When you are so skilled and sit behind such a monster, the risk is to overdo.
Gary Powell on his pedestal uses the drums up to the last cymbal. His drumming is hedonistic. Rollings, pauses, accelerations emphasize more his technical skills than the songs. It’s too much, it’s out of place. I wonder if he is after the Porcupine Tree’s drummer position.

Barat and Rossomando guitars, instead of containing him, follow Powell in a sort of ghost competition without a finishing line.
Didz Hammond takes a lot of singing parts, everyone do share singing actually. Sometimes it is interesting but most of the times is disorienting for who recognize Barat as the distinctive voice of third millennium swinging London.

The band on stage is still genuine. I always liked Carl Barat, he looks a nice guy with a sincere smile. He gives everything on stage and tonight they played in fact almost any song in repertoire.

The concert starts with Wondering, one of their best tunes from the debut. The set flows with most of the anonymous new tracks in the middle and towards the end it peaks again. Deadwood closes the “official” night.
The band comes back quick for an encore which is the best moment of the night.

A nice version of Nirvana’s in Bloom, unscheduled in the printed setlist fits tonight’s guitar sound well. Thid homage to Cobain’s distorsion is followed by B.U.R.M.A.
Anthony Rossomando
picks his trumpet to play Bang Bang You’re Dead intro. With tonight circumstances the songs explodes in a riotous moment which at the same time is their hymn and their swan-song.
Less than two minute of You Fucking Love It salute the fans.

When you have two CDs published, you tour the second but your concert opens, close and encores with 5 songs from the debut and a Nirvana’s cover; with the new album left in the middle of the set … there is not need of a clearer message.

Dirty Pretty Things story comes to an end. They become a small part of Brit-Pop history. They were the perfect soundtrack for a journey in the Tube now they are just four guys getting off the indie-rock train and waiting for the next.

Listen to Dirty Pretty Things here, while we wait to see what next is going to be. [myspace] [website]

Photo tip

I don’t know if Dirty Pretty Things intended to use smoke machines as a metaphor. The band fades on stage as a symbol of the split. I doubt, but the gig was characterized by a foggy stage who made photographers’ work quite challenging.

Smoke machines can be an interesting way to produce creative images.
The most appealing aspect is the ability to erase noisy background.
The main problem is that you don’t control it and you can just adapt. You must be very quick and able to recognize the right moment.
Unfortunately the most frequent situation has just a bit of smoke that partially covers the action. That is disturbing. Images with a bit of smoke come out bland with low or no contrast at all.

Best is when the stage is fully saturated in a thick white smoke. Concentrate on the ghostly figures or be quick to catch them when they come ahead and materialize.

The approach you want to use is the same you would in a foggy day.
To start, avoid the presence of front lights, they don’t help. A flash makes things even worse.
The best pictures are taken when there are backlights, diffused by the smoke particles, they create a dreamy, white, cloudy background.

Try always to include a source of light in the frame. It gives the image an edge, a full range between highlight and dark shadows.

Digital photographers will find it quite normal, but another good suggestion is to shoot a lot. Don’t save any because you cannot predict how the smoke interferes, changes, moves. It is normal to have a large number of useless shots so keep shooting and be ready to work hard and very severe in postproduction. You have to select the very best few shots out of the myriad of useless crap.

For the film photographers’ there is a pro as well. Smoke, behaving as fog, comes out brilliant on quick films. Grainy B&W images of fog are unsurpassed on B&W high sensitive film. Try shooting from 800 to 3200 iso. Best if you push an old B&W emulsion as Kodak Tri-X or ILFORD HP5 to 800 ISO or above.
To stress it develop the films emphasizing the contrast using a warmer temperature with a shorter time, a more concentrate developer and a lot of agitation. Print on contrasted paper (or filter from 4 to 5) and don’t forget to let me see your results!


~ by Valerio on October 29, 2008.

2 Responses to “Dirty Pretty Things”

  1. Hi Valerio,
    Just wondering if you contacted the venue or the band to photograph them? Was there a photographers’ pit or a three song rule in that instance? I’d really appreciate any info, I’m thinking of maybe photographing them as well.

  2. Yes,
    I contacted the band, standard 3 songs no flash with a lot of smoke and a photopit (which depend on the venue by the way)

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