[SPACE DIRGE] The Main Sequence feels like a comeback album for Dirtclodfight. No matter that the band, which originally formed in Portland in the late '80s, actually reunited back in 2004. Ten years into its reunion, the group finally appears to be returning to form.
Using the various life stages of stars as his guide, leader Phil Merwin gets conceptually macrocosmic and emotionally microscopic. He's always referred to his band's style as "dirge pop," but this album puts much of its emphasis on the "dirge" part. Even when the vocals come out jangly and Northwestern, such as on "Red Dwarf," it's more reminiscent of a Built to Spill castoff than anything that could really speak to the masses. Merwin's are an acquired taste: He whines like Doug Martsch and howls like Jeff Schroeder from Gern Blanston.
At its best, Dirtclodfight stretches out into crushing post-metal realms that bespeak the heavy influence from Eugene contemporaries YOB. That band's Mike Scheidt lends his guitar to the opening track, "Forming," as well as the penultimate "White Dwarf," and the latter is all the more YOB-like in its lyrical samsaras and suffocating illusions. It's not coattail riding so much as collaboration, and a respectful nod toward the band that has helped Dirtclodfight peer into a future beyond its recent acoustic rut.
Dirtclodfight was ahead of its time for years, then disappeared right when it could've capitalized on its visionary sound. Now, the band appears to be settling into the right artistic space for its age and temperament.
SEE IT: Dirtclodfight plays Club 21, 2035 NE Glisan St., with Fruit of the Legion of Loom, on Saturday, Jan. 25. 8 pm. Free. 21+.