The Dentists

Genres evolving from one into another often feels unremarkable when it's happening, and it's impossible to determine when the precursor yields the descendant. Like remodeling a house one room at a time, musical aesthetics and conventions mutate in gentle ebbs and flows, and you can't pinpoint a time when the structure you set out to renovate stopped existing and became something uniquely new. Was it when you were halfway done? Three quarters? Was it only when the final stroke of paint had been applied to the final corner of the final room?

This line of thought is often what comes to mind when I read about or am reminded of the assertion that the Dentists were the first Brit-pop act. Frustratingly, the statement seems simultaneously undeniably true and patently misleading. No matter how you look at it, though, they were definitely cut of the same cloth as other Brit-poppers, they definitely came before the flagbearers we all know, and they definitely weren't post-punk or twee, so... first Brit-pop group? Sure. Why not?

Wall-to-wall hookiness from start to finish with these guys. The debut, Some People Are on the Pitch They Think It's All Over It Is Now—and its pursuant singles and EPs, most of which were collected on Dressed—is a fascinating, vivacious neo-psych rush, an imagining of the Smiths without Morrissey or XTC without the Andy Partridge. They were amiable yet rough, nonchalant yet committed. A corollary that comes to mind is the Replacements, who similarly gunked up rock without trying too hard or flirting with straight-ahead punk.

The follow-up, Heads and How to Read Them, is more adult and organized, and Mick Murphy, the singer, has a different sort of presence on it, coming off as a sort of tapered David Gedge.

What followed that is a little less interesting, though no less punchy and sprightly. Powder Lobster Fiasco is a bolt of uncut power pop; Behind the Door I Keep the Universe is the fully-realized band firing on all cylinders.

The final effort, Deep Six, is a bit of a misfire, the sound of an excellent band hitting a wall and attempting to compensate by blending into the scenery around them. It's noisier, and the arrangements feel blown out with obnoxious, pummeling drums, but it has its moments with tunes like "Kick Start My Body."