On their second album for Daykamp, rock & roll heroes Dirt Mall broaden their attack a bit by incorporating some more influences than were immediately apparent on their 2007 debut, Got the Goat by the Horns. The raw "good ol' boy" rock is still their trademark, but the sound has grown to encompass seventies hard rock, nineties grunge, and the garage subgenre of the current era. There is also a stronger sense of melody abound, and a more brisk feel to the songs - Pacifuego's eleven tracks fly by in a quick half hour - that keeps the record's energy well in tact. While vocalist Johnny Anguish's voice has a great raspy yell, which fits the style perfectly, it's the guitar and drums that steal the show. The twin attack Anguish takes with Jason Murray yields some outstanding riffs and solos, while Derek Madeiros' powerful drumming propels the whole affair splendidly. Even Jamie Griffith's bass comes to the forefront here and there (especially on You've Got the Whole Thing Wrong), and with the company he keeps, it's impressive just being able to keep up.
While the overall instrumentation is towering, the vocals are able to hold their own. On tracks like the opening Building a Case and Rats, Anguish makes great use of power pop melodies, and they almost sound like Cheap Trick with a raw edge. And raw is definitely the word to describe the band's sound; listening to Pacifuego (and especially Goat) brings to mind images of beer soaked pool tables, whiskey pounding broads, and tattoo clad chain smokers pissed off because the juke box cut off right in the middle of gawd damn Skynyrd. Interestingly, some of the finesse comes from cleverly placed organ and electric piano parts by co-producer Mike Quinn (who shared production duties with the band), which are subtle enough to be missed on the first listening.
The pacing is impressive as well, particularly seeing as the album has no real ballads. In fact, the closest Pacifuego comes to balladry is probably Pearl and Buried by You, neither of which anyone would call gentle. The former sounds like an updated Bad Company song, with Buried serving as a prime example of not only the dual guitar technique's effectiveness, but how good a drummer Madeiros is. Alternately stomping and pacing, and with great cymbal work to boot, he gives the song a lot of its energy and depth.
The only real shortcoming of Pacifuego, and Dirt Mall in general, is that the sound is a bit dated, and it lacks a certain timeless quality that some of the band's influences had in places (Back in Black and Appetite for Destruction come to mind). Still, given the step up that they've shown from their debut, things are falling into place nicely for the band, and the fact that their songs are getting both catchier and more complex shows that the substance is successfully taking over the style.
With Pacifuego, the Boston rockers show a great deal of growth, and have developed a knack for writing catchier songs without sacrificing their edge, and while improving their musical prowess as well. Dirt Mall's second album is largely the band still finding their footing and establishing their sound, but it's something that still provides a damn fun listen.