When news broke that the Dirty Projectors impending album, Rise Above, would seek to reinterpret Black Flag’s punk landmark Damaged entirely from memory, the concept was lauded but perhaps not carefully considered. What charm there is in the original album depends on the adrenaline rush of its juvenile righteousness. The lyrical content is effectively angry, but half baked. Slowing it down and adding more accomplished musicianship sounds interesting in theory, but doesn’t make the words magically deep.
The Projectors’ take on the signature protest “Rise Above” excises the fist pounding entirely, turning it into a creeping avant soul number. Dave Longstreth’s quaking croon stretches most lines to exhaustion, rounding up and deporting each and every bark. Partial compensation is provided by moments when the backing female vocals provide disarming beauty. But without an attempt to bestow any real urgency, the wild transformation seems more like an empty gesture than an thematically illuminating exercise.