Eleven years into their life as a band, Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s Dexateens are finally starting to get the notice they so richly deserve. Formed around the core of guitarists John Smith and Elliott McPherson, the band quickly added a third guitar and set to tearing up every rinky-dink roadside bar and honky-tonk they could weasel their way into. Local heroes The Quadrajets took the band under their wing, showing the five-some the ways of the road and helping Dexateens coalesce into a three-guitar juggernaut that left many a hometown band weeping into their post-set PBRs.
Dexateens then made an aborted effort at recording a debut with Bruce Watson from Fat Possum behind the boards, but both parties mutually agreed to abort the sessions. Tellingly, their self-titled debut was eventually recorded with garage-punk guru Tim Kerr. Released on Estrus, the record was raucous and in your face, but with strong melodies underpinning it all. The debut was a more than adequate snapshot of a band finding itself, but was just as obviously a single frame capturing a band in motion. Kerr returned less than a year later to man the boards for the second record Red Dust Rising, as Dexateens refined their sound and channeled their inner Black Oak Arkansas.
An Alabama band with three guitars is bound to get some notice from Patterson Hood of Drive By Truckers, and notice he did, talking them up to everyone who would listen and lending a hand to the band as they made their third record with David Barbe. Barbe and Hood got The Teens in touch with their inner Big Star on Hardware Healing, layering the vocals and adding a bit more gloss to the proceedings, as well as steel guitar and keys. Finally, the planets seemed to finally align for the Alabama quintet. The Alex Chilton meets Crazy Horse single “Neil Armstrong” pricked up a lot of people’s ears and led to high-profile tours with DBT and Lucero, raising their profile considerably outside the South.
Deaxteens have always displayed diy ethics. The band managed to capitalize on their growing notoriety by parleying it into a distribution deal for their label Cornelius Chapel. Released through Thirty Tigers and Sony’s Red Distribution, the new record Singlewide is released in conjunction with fellow Alabama indie Skybucket Records. Singlewide dispenses almost entirely with the blazing guitars that played so much of a part in their early music. The band approached the record with a Creedence state of mind, building every song around an acoustic guitar and really pushing the harmonies. They found a sympathetic production ear in Nashville maverick Mark Evers, solidifying his role as the go-to guy for recording oddball Nash Vegas stuff like Bobby Bare Jr. and The Silver Jews.
The Dexateens are no stranger to rocking, but with the help of Evers, Singlewide finds the band exploring more of their quiet side. “New Boy” is a beautiful song reminiscent of the slower Two Cow Garage material that seems ripe for drunken singalongs. “Hang On” is just as lovely, a chiming Big Star homage that screams to be played way too loudly on a car radio. The record builds to the closing “Can You Whoop It”. Former Silver Jew Dave Berman makes a guest appearance, responding in a robotic affirmative to the seemly rhetorical question. It’s that song that seems to embody the Dexateens aesthetic: the narrator avers that he likes Ronnie Dio, Vaseline and living “in the space that compromise provides”. That simple statement crystallizes succinctly the two worlds that Dexateens straddle. Equal parts soulful croon and raging bombast, Singlewide makes every song seem like one you’ve sung along to a million times. If they have any say in the matter, Dexateens will have you sing along a million times more.