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Locomotive Filth From Italy

28 November 2007

The Italian "nü blooz duo" Dirty Trainload rocks, there's no doubt about that. Marco Del Noce and Bob Cillo's "Rising Rust" is a well-produced, well-composed whole of an album that entertains and intrigues while sounding unlike any other "blues" band on the scene. I like it a lot, but I'm not ashamed to admit that it has left me more than a little bit confused.

For one thing, the use of bass loops and analog rhythm boxes is something that I've never thought an improvement on anybody's blues. Dirty Trainload, however, seem to make it work, as the unnatural repetiveness of it all only becomes REALLY annoying on one track - the Howlin' Wolf-powered Tommy Johnson number "I Asked For Water".
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The confusion sets in with the band's definition of themselves as "nü blooz": I would have thought "industrial blues" a more accurate description. Indeed, similarities with the soundscapes Ministry created on classics like "Jesus Built My Hotrod" are evident throughout the CD.

Secondly, the band seems to borrow mainly from British blues and rock of the 1960's and 70's. Musically, you get quotes and references from
The Who to Gallagher and Clapton; soundwise - well, guitar sound-wise, at least - I keep thinking "Thin Lizzy 1976". In fact, I'm pretty sure that in the late 1970's, Dirty Trainload could have happily passed for a hard rock outfit, but the times they are a-changin' - looking at the rock stars of the 21st century, it's no wonder the talented ones do their best to avoid associations with that lot.

What else? The guitar playing is superb, and there's plenty of it. But if "nü" guitar sounds are what you are after, you'd be better off checking out the cookings of the Reverend
Billy F. Gibbons on ZZ Top's "Rhythmeen" album, released more than 10 years ago. However, Cillo & Co's songwriting is inventive, with enough sound effects layered on the vocals to disguise any awkwardness of expression in their self-penned English lyrics. In addition to the the "Gasoline" number mentioned above, there are cover versions of Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and John Lee Hooker's "Mad Man Blues". Neil Young fans be advised: any similarities to Mr. Young's musical output are limited to the album title alone.

Uncharacteristically, I would also like to make a mention of
Benjamin Guedel's cover art for "Rising Rust", which is possibly the most Italian aspect of the whole affair - at least I am instantly reminded of the late great Sergio Leone and his wonderful spaghetti westerns. 

Conclusion? A very good album, and especially since it was recorded in a single day, loops and all, I shall be most eager to check these guys out live, should they ever venture this far North. I also intend to make sure I will get to hear any future recordings Mssrs. Cillo and Del Noce might have to offer. But do I consider it "nü" and "blues"? I'm still not sure - but as it definitely makes for an interesting aural experience, I urge you to get a copy and form your own opinion.  


Dirty Trainload: Rising Rust, 2007  

Marco Del Noce (vocals, blues harp, washboard, bass drum, kazoo), Bob Cillo (guitar, live guitar loops, analog rhythm boxes and bass loops, percussion)

Produced by Dirty Trainload and Fabio Magistrali

Dirty Trainload website, MySpace