When Dirty on Purpose broke up, I was a bit saddened, thinking I’d never get to hear their blend of sharp-edged indie pop again. Luckily, Doug Marvin and his wife, Annie of Au Revoir Simone, had other thoughts in mind, forming Pursesnatchers at home in their bedroom. They’ve since fleshed out a full band and completed A Pattern Language, giving all the old DoP fans something to hold onto.
“Forever Ahead” opens with this angular stuttering guitar, just before Marvin enters with his whispering vocal, barely floating atop the rest of the band. It’s a powerful song, built on the backbone of those noisy guitars and steady drum beats. You’ll find a similar pattern with “Mechanical Rabbits” as the song again opens slowly before bursting into the meat and potatoes, those discordant guitars crossing from ear to ear, balanced out by Marvin’s voice. The dichotomy between Doug’s vocals and and the music is precisely what one would hope for from A Pattern Language.
While the quiet loud quiet dynamic made poplar by the Pixies is used excessively, there’s some differentiation between the songs. “A Partying Prayer” applies the same construction, relying more on a forceful guitar sound, but it’s Marvin’s vocals that have a different tone to them (not as wispy). There’s also an intricate closing to the song, built around carefully picked guitar lines. Then there’s “Kissena Park,” possibly one of the best songs on the A Pattern Language. It’s the closest that Pursesnatchers come to creating a ballad, with cleaner guitar sounds, and Marvin going all soft. You’re likely to find this song sweeping you away for some time to come; it has such a pristine melody that you just can’t escape its magic.
What’s interesting about Pursesnatchers is that they have this ace up their sleeve that they don’t seem to utilize enough; that ace being Annie Hart. Her first real audible performance comes as backing vocalist on “Baseball on the Radio,” and she really seems to balance out her pop inflections perfectly with Doug’s voice. You can hear the cascading guitar chords chiming in and those powerful drums fills, but you can’t escape that her presence gives it the perfect essence of pop. She follows that up with her first lead performance on “Third Body Problem.” It’s a wonder that she doesn’t make more of an appearance, vocally speaking, on A Pattern Language. You can still have a dynamic song with her, but she brings a different balance altogether to the group’s sound. I’d be interested to see what the group can do using her more, as they seem to do on the latter half of this record.
Listening over and over to A Pattern Language you’re going to hear the ghost of Dirty on Purpose, and by no means is this a knock, as that band was vastly under-appreciated in their time. But, it’s clear that Pursesnatchers have some tools in their arsenal that they haven’t quite brought to the forefront, so in the future we can only hope they grow, just a bit, making them something incredible. For now, they’ll have to just settle for being really really good.
Download: Pursesnatchers – Baseball on the Radio [MP3]