Although Raleigh, North Carolina’s Dish and Motocaster share singer/guitarist Bo Taylor, neither band is a side project. Motocaster, a noisy trio formerly known as Motorolla, serves as the outlet for Taylor’s ruder self, while in Dish he plays a strong second banana to singer/pianist Dana Kletter, tempering her chamber-pop tendencies with a ragged, soulful edge.
Co-produced with power-pop godfather Mitch Easter, Motocaster’s Stay Loaded is a whole lot of fun, although it’s sometimes hard to tell if there are any real songs underneath the confusion. Falling somewhere between Sugar (without the terminal angst) and early Cheap Trick (without the killer hooks), Taylor and the rhythm section offer a smart person’s version of heavy metal, echoing Jimi Hendrix on “Motorolla Blues,” mixing big noise and Beatles inflections on “Farah” and ripping through a sleek boogie groove for “Uranus.” Easter’s Let’s Active (whose onetime bassist Jon Heames drums and plays mellotron in Motocaster) probably would’ve sounded like this if he’d been less civilized.
Dish’s Boneyard Beach is a whole ‘nother thing, offering elegant, haunting melodies with nary a hint of excess sugar. Kletter’s passionate yet polished singing — she contributed backing vocals to Hole’s Live Through This — brings high drama to original tunes like the hypnotic “Wading” and “Headlights,” which could have been lifted from Procol Harum’s repertoire. Just in case anyone’s tempted to use this accomplished work as background music, the quietly bitter “How Could Anyone” unleashes an extra-harsh put-down as Kletter sighs, through gritted teeth, “I see you barely polite to the people who are kind to you…I don’t know anyone who could be what you are.” Taylor’s input surfaces in the twangy “Sad Figure” and a stunning, rip-roaring cover of the Dylan/Band tune “Tears of Rage,” where he and Kletter blend their sweet’n’sour voices with thrilling results, much the way John Doe and Exene Cervenka do in X.
Before finding her voice in Dish, Kletter was one-third of Blackgirls, whose self-conscious, affected art-pop failed to find many admirers, despite the patronage of estimable folk-rock producer Joe Boyd. Taylor, a onetime member of nifty North Carolina R.E.M.-pop quartet Eight or Nine Feet (with future Motocaster bassist Brian Sliwa), first crossed professional paths with Kletter when he served briefly as Blackgirls’ road manager.