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The Dirty Things (Saturday, February 5th, 2005, Turf Club, Minneapolis)
The Dirty Things (a Chicago-based 3 piece) tore up the Turf Club on Saturday night. Photo by David de Young (click for full size)

By David de Young

Have you read Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcom Gladwell? (Little, Brown, January, 2005.) It’s a brand new book about how people tend to make decisions in a matter of seconds (too quickly to really think) and then tend to stick with them. What Gladwell found, is that more often than not, people are just as “right” after 5 seconds of “analysis” as they are likely to be days, weeks, or months of poring over the issue.

Dangers of prejudice aside, hearing a new band for the first time is an experience which fits Gladwell’s model perfectly; and my Saturday night at the Turf Club could have been a case study for his book. I was immediately flabbergasted by Chicago’s The Dirty Things, immediately meaning within 5 seconds of stepping inside the Turf Club door. 30 seconds later I’d already moved through the packed house all the way to the front of the club to join the head-bobbing fans and other local musicians grooving up by the stage. Less than a minute later, not only did I realize I was a new fan, but knew I’d made the right decision from the start and it was not likely to change. Neurons of pleasant association were firing off left and right in my musical brain, and Ciaran Daly of the Idle Hands who was standing up nearby up front told me "Totally Wired" by the Fall had fired off in his.

Days later I’m confident I’m still telling the right story. The Dirty Things are a powerful and exciting live band who just may blow you away.

Like a surf-punk guitar-steeped Clash or Gang of Four, this band is more fun to watch and listen to than many of the danceable new bands who boast similar influences playing the national scene today (Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Radio 4, etc.) Though the bass-line to “New Dance” could have been lifted straight out of the Gang of Four’s “I Love a Man in a Uniform”, the song is unstoppable with its ringing guitars and Cure-esque vocal stylings. You can hear it along with “Stop” on the band’s website at or their MySpace page. The City Pages Melissa Maerz said in her concert preview, "When the Dirty Things play 'Stop,' I can't.”

I was impressed by guitaris Michael Scahill’s passionate yet controlled vocals (his presentation sometimes reminded me of Snow Patrol’s singer/guitarist Gary Lightbody) and by the tightly intertwined groove of Paddy Ryan’s bass and Paul Lohr’s drums. Though stylistically different, The Dirty Things share a level of rock professionalism with the Twin Cities own Friends Like These, who also appeared on tonight's bill along with Kid Dakota and the Deaths. What I mean by this is that The Dirty Things are not only tight, engaging to watch and write catchy songs, but they’re clearly ready for the next level of success, whatever form that may take.

The band also makes no apologies, unabashedly wearing their influences on their sleeves. Scahill was delighted when I told him that the Gang of Four was temporarily re-forming (They play the Quest on May 10th) when I got the chance to talk to him at length at an after party. Their website bio tells a story of how the seeds for the band were laid over “discussions of wrongly-forgotten music acts from the underground scene of the 1970s and 1980s.” Chances are good that if you like the bands who laid the groundwork, you’re going to love The Dirty Things. And you may also find yourself headed to the basement to dust of your old vinyl copies of Songs of the Free and Entertainment (as the band perhaps hoped?) as I found myself doing the day after their show.

David de Young is