CC Dust’s debut is a seamless lesson in synth wave post-punk.
Though it was never a commercial success, Luis López Carrasco’s 2013 film El Futuro was a tremendous breakthrough. It wasn’t just the film-deterioration cinematic approach or the highlighting of Spain’s peerless socialist youth movement, but it was the soundtrack that really made it. Formed by a gorgeous collection of minimal/cold-wave songs from Spain, the U.S., and all over the world, no previous compilation could touch the chord of nostalgia that El Futuro’s OST could. Not that others haven’t tried. It’s been over half a decade since fans worldwide finally laid hands on the first volume of the Minimal Wave Tapes, a collection of songs from Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave label of painstakingly collected singles from a long-forgotten scene. These songs weren’t only unique in their lo-fi synth approach of subtle songs, but also because their particular type of nostalgia for fed-up youth was so constructive. Less of a “fuck it all” and more of a “look what we can accomplish, even with so little.” Without belaboring the point, these essences of nostalgia and youthful invincibility have never been more poignant than they are on the debut album from Olympia’s CC Dust.
Coming as a semi-surprise from a label that has historically released more punk rock albums, CC Dust hit the scene earlier this year with “Never Going to Die.” It was a song so catchy, empowering, and beautiful it felt impossible that the band could deliver anything else up to such a high standard. But deliver they did. CC Dust’s five-song debut is a seamless lesson in synth wave post-punk, teeming with striking lyrics and electric textures that would feel right at home on the best work from influencers like New Order or contemporary peers like U.S. Girls. Mary Jane Dunphy’s voice stretches from melodramatic croon to spine-shuddering wail as the mood jumps from elated to bummed and back again. In case you hadn’t already heard, goth is in again, so a track like "Tonopath" with its “oo-OO-oo-OO” refrains is the perfect bump for your moody girl fix. Plus, I’m almost positive it mentions vampires (cough cough CC Dust and Jenny Hval tour cough). "Baby Boy" is no different, another excellent track that slugs over its drum machines with painfully restrained drama. It seems to be painted on her sleeve alongside her broken heart that Dunphy’s songwriting never aims to tease or hint. It’s as straightforward as the sharp synths that punctuate every stanza.
While it’s inevitable that a certain nostalgia hangs over this album because of its sound production and general genre-influences, it also boasts the pop songwriting skills of other greats influenced by the post-punk movement. Tinges of Sky Ferreira, Alex Zhang Huntai, and the like turn up all over the record’s guitar riffs and catchy refrains. But as easy as it is to find trademarks of many different scenes from many different chronistic musical peaks, CC Dust works as perfectly as it does because it feels, above all, timeless. By the time the album’s last two tracks bleed from a shaky-voiced monologue into "Abra," the album’s vocal standout and best foil to a high-spirited 80s ballad, CC Dust feels like a band that stepped out of time. Yet they just might sound perfect anywhere (or any-when). Our current era has no shortage of 80s sentimentality. Hell, just look at all the kids dressed as “Stranger Things” characters this Halloween. When an artist really takes that feeling to a new level of outstanding emotional output, however, we find ourselves looking neither back nor forward, but straight into the eyes of a manifestation that lives all on its own - and it’s never going to die.
Listen to CC Dust on bandcamp.
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Elijah Fosl is a freelance music and culture writer who's really bad at describing themselves. They hail from Louisville but live in Chicago where they work, ferociously devouring cassette tapes and local produce. Find them on Twitter at @elifosl or online at elifosl.com.