There is a lot to be said for brevity. 'If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out,' was but one of the authoritative 'remedy of six rules' haughtily prescribed by the moustachioed tea-drinking author, critic and essayist Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), aka George Orwell, who is famous for, amongst other things, having written the acclaimed novels 1984, Animal Farm, and Keep The Aspidistra Flying, not to mention numerous influential articles such as Some Thoughts On The Common Toad’ (later republished, abridged, as ‘The Humble Toad’).
With this 12-song album which ends in under 12 minutes, it’s as if Tony Molina chose to apply Orwell’s prose rules to music composition. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. If it possible to cut a verse out, always cut it out. If it is possible, sing the chorus only once. If it is possible, end the song immediately after the guitar solo. If it is possible to bring the song to a close, then bring it to a bloody close already.
Punk rock tends to be the go-to genre for short songs. Fun-time frat-wits NOFX became quite proficient at short tracks in the second half of the Nineties and once curated a compilation of 30-second songs featuring the likes of Bad Religion, Rancid, Dwarves and Green Day. Before NOFX, hardcore groups like Descendents, Minor Threat, and Minutemen thrived in an environment where if too many of their songs exceeded the two-minute mark they’d be branded sell-outs and glassed in the face by some local mohawked, eyelid-pierced, straight-edge, bodybuilding psychopath. Which might be why the ever-antagonistic Black Flag opted to grow their hair long and release the defiantly sluggish My War.
A veteran of Bay Area punk groups such as Caged Animal, Molina may have a background in hardcore but Dissed and Dismissed ain’t hardcore. Hearing these petite nuggets of slacker pop-rock perfection, you can imagine Molina thinking to himself, “What’s the best track on Pinkerton? 'Why Bother?' What’s the best track on Slanted and Enchanted? 'Zurich is Stained'. What’s the best track on Fountains of Wayne’s debut? That one about the car. What do they have in common? They’re the shortest tracks. Eureka!”
Bashing out a short album of short songs can sometimes go awry, but Molina pulls this project off consummately. The songs are impeccably composed, scuzzily performed (this imperfection boosting the overall perfection, paradoxically) and fly by before you can say, “Guided By Voices”. Indeed, the influence of Robert Pollard’s penchant for concise-but-potent lo-fi ditties is given explicit acknowledgment with Molina’s cover of ‘Wondering Boy Poet’. Any initial reservations the listener may harbour for the potential gimmicky nature of 12 songs in 12 minutes are soon put to bed by the sheer quality of Molina’s songwriting. The melodies are so catchy that a chorus or verse that Molina recites only once for about 20 seconds will stick in your head for 17 long and blissful weeks. He’s like the fuzz-rock Brian Wilson who lost his attention span instead of his mind. And I don’t use that comparison lightly. Like Wilson, there’s a chance that Molina might be some kind of genius.
In 12 words: Dissed and Dismissed is the best album that Rivers Cuomo never made. In 12 letters: sweeeeeeeeet.