Charleston indie rockers Elim Bolt aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. At least, you might get that idea from the title of their recently released EP, Dingy, Slimy, Scummy! (out now on Hearts & Plugs) — and in fact, you would be right. On their 2012 debut LP, Nude South, the band veered more toward a muscular pop sound, with traces of a heart-on-sleeve songwriter attitude creeping into the mix from time to time. But on their follow-up, they’ve gone a darker route, to a place where murky rhythms and distortion cover everything in a viscous slick of alternative-tinged inspiration. Turning their influences into concave shadows of their former selves, Elim Bolt create music that holds to certain aesthetic rules before fracturing into bits and pieces of a handful of genres and reforming into some completely new and unique.
On their latest single, the sludgy rocker “Dingy,” the band holds true to the track’s name and bathes the song in layers of distortion-soaked guitars and gritty, sweat-caked garage rock swagger. It’s easy to tell that the song — and the band — were brought up on a steady diet of The Sonics and The Standells. But “Dingy” isn’t merely the sum total of their influences and formative musical upbringing; it feels spontaneous and reveals a darker side to the band’s established thick pop sound. A thudding percussive blast courtesy of drummer Jessica Oliver wraps itself tightly around Matthews off-kilter vocals and rampaging guitar licks, stopping only occasionally to let the song take a few quick breaths before digging in its heels and taking off into some warped garage rock landscape.
The band has also been busy shooting the accompanying video for “Dingy,” an oddly surreal tale of two people on the run from a Roman soldier, a policeman, and a British cop — among others. Needless to say, with dog cages and a psychedelic place called Dreamworld entering into the story, things turn weird quickly. Giving off more than a slightly unhinged punk rock vibe, the video pairs the song’s unspooling waves of guitar and drums in a continually shifting Nuggets-style rock aesthetic. Ending on a brightly manic note (and in sharp contrast to what we’ve seen before), the video leaves us to question which images are from Dreamworld and which are from reality. But when the visuals are so joyously chaotic as they are here, I would say that the question is far less important than the time and effort it takes us to understand that there is a question which needs answering.