Release Date: 7 March 2000
Signed by Warren Ellis
Every kid periodically finds himself enrolled in something called "Arts and Crafts," where he learns to express himself with Popsicle sticks. Say you feel some existential angst over the unpredictability of the expanding universe; you might dump a handful of popsicle sticks and a glob of glue into a bucket, shake randomly, and let the sticks fall where they may. Because I spent many years in summer camp enrolled in these kinds of classes, I never learned to differentiate the art from the craft. It's all the same to me. I buy a table because I need a place to set my highball glass, and I buy an album because I need help feeling something. Plumber, writer, boat detailer, cellist-- they're all the same thing. The one you choose just depends on what you're looking for.
Dirty Three have a special place in many an indie rock fan's heart because they have a strong sense of craftsmanship. They call themselves the Dirty Three because they're not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work; if a little excess muck gets flung about when they're in the midst of construction, well, that's just part of the job. These guys are working stiffs. I mean, who wouldn't want to suck down a few jumbo cans of Foster's with Warren Ellis, Mick Turner and Jim White? No one wouldn't, that's who.
I may have used a double negative at the end of that last paragraph, but I am doubly positive that if you dig the Dirty Three in any way you will absolutely love Whatever You Love, You Are. It's their best album yet, beating the holy crap out of already great albums like Horse Stories and Ocean Songs. For the first time, Dirty Three delve heavily into orchestration, adding layers to Ellis' violin, making him sound like a quartet all by himself. And the instrumental melodies are, simply, among the most beautiful you'll hear this year.
"Some Summers They Drop Like Flies" is a swooning bolero that patiently works through slight variations in melody. "I Really Should've Gone Out Last Night" layers Ellis' picked fiddle over White and Turner's lurching, off-the-beat rhythm, until Ellis emerges with an emotional bowed passage. "I Offered It Up to the Stars and the Night Sky" starts with a canon-like figure comprised of at least four tracks of Ellis' violin repeating variations on the same refrain, and eventually finds its way to one of the trio's patented epiphanies, aching with drama and transcendence. "Some Things I Just Don't Want to Know" is the most cinematic track, conjuring images of big sky and drunken peasants dressed in rags. And the gorgeous "Lullabye for Christie" makes me wish, for the first time I can recall, that my name was Christie. Get this: I am this album.
- Mark Richardson, Pitchfork