Patrick Foster reviewed a September 2007 Dirty Projectors performance for The Washington Post:
The Dirty Projectors' MySpace page describes their sound as "nu-jazz/2-step/regional Mexican." If it were only that simple. The Brooklyn outfit -- essentially Dave Longstreth and whoever's around -- make records that are highly personal and often difficult to listen to. The Yale-educated singer-guitarist favors eccentric time signatures, glitches imitating beats and cut-and-paste indie rock patched together with surreal soul vocals, then jammed into a Cuisinart. Art rock without much rock. Not much fun.
Which is why the band's show on the Black Cat Backstage Wednesday was surprising: Longstreth led a remarkably supple four-piece rock band through a set that turned his quirks into strengths. Opening with Black Flag's "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie" (a track from the latest Projectors dispatch, which "reimagines" Flag's hardcore classic "Damaged"), Longstreth's vision made immediate sense.
Guitarist Amber Coffman and bassist Angel Deradoorian cooed like new wave Crystals, and drummer Brian McOmber pounded a sense of order into Longstreth's guitar, which scrabbled right along, at times spraying riffs that resembled African pop. So whether it was more blurred interpretation of Black Flag ("What I See," "Rise Above") or tracks from 2005's "The Getty Address" ("Not Having Found"), the set put muscle on Longstreth's brittle recordings and instilled some swing into his herky-jerky rhythms. He proved a savvy showman, too: The 40-minute set was the perfect length and the Projectors' refusal to play an encore a nice break from stale rock-show protocol.
Chris Richards wrote about Dirty Projectors in January 2008 for The Washington Post:
Stomachs turned when Dirty Projectors' Dave Longstreth announced plans to release a folky reinterpretation of Black Flag's hard-core masterstroke "Damaged." Transpose the most hostile punk anthems ever penned into quirky indie-pop? Blasphemy! Flag faithful (present company included) trotted off to MySpace with sharpened fangs.
But what they found may have caught them off guard: Longstreth had posted a soulful, jingle-jangle interpolation of "Rise Above" -- a reading that somehow managed to capture the visceral desperation of the Black Flag original while still feeling delicate and weightless.
Ten more Black Flag anthems followed, not necessarily in the form of covers, but rather entirely new songs that merely recycled the lyrics from "Damaged." Hearing the salvos Henry Rollins once roared so viciously in 1981 recast through Longstreth's Van Morrisonesque warble is as bizarre as it is thrilling. "Police Story" feels like a soul-crushing Tropicalia ballad and "Thirsty and Miserable" becomes a twitchy, impatient romp.
It shouldn't matter whether you soundtracked your teenage angst with "Damaged" -- Longstreth's left-field pop sensibilities still make "Rise Above" the most compelling rock album of 2007. Nostalgia never feels this innovative.