Dirtbag Republic’s sophomore record features a liner-notes photograph of the group titled “Cast of Characters”. The same concept neatly describes the subjects of the album’s songs.
Downtown Eastside, as the name suggests, details the exploits of a colourful collection of individuals. Opening number “Junkie Girl” introduces a smoke-bumming sex worker who plays “Frogger classic in your car”; follow-up “Homeless” discusses an alcoholic who beats a woman after selling his possessions.
It’s prescient, relatable stuff for anyone who’s ventured down East Hastings at night—and therein lies the album’s charm. Name-checking a host of local spots—the defunct White Lunch and San Francisco Pawn included—the album conjures a familiarity and nostalgia befitting its old-school musical feel.
Dirtbag Republic mixes cutting social commentary with screaming guitar solos, gravelly vocals, and glossy production. Balls-out and relentless, Downtown Eastside makes up for what it lacks in variety with invigorating energy. Pro tip: it’s even louder than you’re imagining.