Only just audible over the Monday-night din of Gooski's back room, Dirty Faces front man Terry "T-Glitter" Carroll breaks down his lyrical content. "My songs are all about sex, drugs and authority. Sex, drugs and the police state."
"And romance!" adds guitarist Julie "Breakadawn Powers" Chill. "There's a lot of romance in your songs."
Carroll laughs at this assessment, but bassist Mike "Tricky Powers" Bonello agrees. It's not a traditional kind of romance, though: "It's a romance for a lifestyle."
And it's true: As with all good rock 'n' roll, living hard, fast and bloodshot is rarely so appealing as when presented by the Dirty Faces. And with their new record, Underground Economy — the last in what Carroll calls the "Age of American Terror Trilogy"— there's also a strange kind of romanticism for post-9/11 America.
Each installment of the trilogy — the first two of which were released by Jagjaguwar imprint Brah — deals with a different pillar of American life. 2005's Superamerican explored patriotism, to the tune of smoky basement conspiracy theory-fueled, Stooges-style rock. In 2006, Get Right With God got weird with religion, taking the Superamerican sound off-road, interweaving catchy punk freak-outs with heavier musical detours.
Underground Economy — you can probably guess what it's about — is a tightly wound collection of catchy, weird, danceable rock songs, delivered with Carroll's trademark yowl. One memorable track, "Off My Leash", sounds like a punk reworking of Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into the Fire"; another, "She's On It (Heavy Dollars)," channels the dirtiest of '70s funk.
Like its predecessors, Carroll says, "this is definitely a pre-Obama record. There's no optimism." The band started recording tracks for the record in 2007, but were held up by a variety of issues, some financial, some legal. (One song, "48 States," is about not being allowed to leave the continental U.S.) Mostly, though, the band just wanted to take its time.
"With the last record, Brah wanted [it] quickly," Bonello says. "We came up with a lot of stuff in the studio, and that was very nerve-wracking," With Underground Economy, "there's a lot going on but it's more refined than the other stuff. When you come up with something in the studio, you don't have a chance to take it on the road and find the core. On this record we were really able to do that."
The group will release Underground Economy — vinyl-only — on Rickety Records, which Bonello started in 1994 while in the band Tiny Little Help. The label became an umbrella for the "Rickety Rock" scene, which included acts like The Working Poor, The Bumps, the Johnsons, and others — some of whom will appear at the release show, reuniting for what Bonello is calling the Rickety Holiday Party.
The Dirty Faces, including drummer Bill "Sweet Willie Powers" Baxter, are currently operating as a stripped-down (for them) four-piece. Now that they've finished the trilogy, they're free to move on. "Everything is supposed to end on the 21st, and the release is on the 22nd," Bonello says. "We counting on existence continuing, but it will be a new phase."