Bludgers’ “Dirty Laundry,” opens with a rhythm and a chord progression wonderfully similar to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “Listen to Her Heart.” Many Petty fans will likely fall in love with this song within its first ten seconds. However, as TV advertisers always used to remind us, ‘But there’s more!’ Indeed, there is over three minutes of power-pop goodness packed into this wonderful new single.
Just what this ‘dirty laundry’ is, however, is open to interpretation. We’re informed about a dirty mess, dirty money and dirty pictures in the song’s lyric. Clearly, something staining is going on here. This is not, by the way, Don Henley’s song of the same name. That lyric, you may recall, was his indictment of the news business. It was all about how local news broadcasts thrive on revealing the dark sides of celebrity’s lives. On it, Henley was righteously angry.
One interpretation might be a political one. When Bludgers sing about dirty tricks, the name Richard Nixon, who was called Tricky Dick by his detractors, comes immediately to mind. However, Bludgers don’t name any names, so to speak. This song could be about nearly anything, in fact. The band is from Champaign, Illinois, and the city of Chicago, IL is famous for its political corruption throughout the years. However, Chicago is also a staunchly Democratic city, too, and it’s unlikely to hear a band protest a Democratic administration.
What is also noteworthy, however, is how the singer sings about “our dirty laundry.” He’s not talking about ‘their’ dirty laundry. Thus, the suggestion is that we’re all implicated in this crime, somehow. He also mentions a “dirty decade,” which begs the question: which decade is he singing about? Maybe he’s referring to the Bush years. The Bush family has its hand in the oil business. Oil, in our climate change-aware culture, is seen as dirty energy. This contrasts with electricity, which is oftentimes described as clean energy. Also, whenever oil tankers have spills, much of the wildlife is literally dirtied by this sticky, deadly substance.
Then again, Bludgers may have intentionally left this song open to the listener’s interpretation. There is plenty of dirty laundry to go around. Whether it’s big business, government or even organized religion, it’s there, and will always be there. The saying, ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely,’ is ever true for good reason. Wherever there is money and power, you’ll find corrupt individuals attempting to make a killing financially.
Sonically, the song includes that wonderful guitar part, matched with a passionate lead vocal. There is also fine harmony singing mixed in. The lead vocal tone is a combination of anger and disappointment. Anger that such bad behavior can go on that long, and disappointment that nobody stopped it sooner.
This Bludgers’ song is very much in the Uncle Tupelo mold. Uncle Tupelo set the standard for alt.country music. That band loved country music, but also knew how to play rock & roll. And somehow, these two styles didn’t sound like uncomfortable bedfellows when mixed together. Same goes for Bludgers. It’s likely these players love a wide variety of Americana sounds; With this song, in particular, they masterfully give us their best Tom Petty-inspired jangle rocker and some truly wonderful messy fun.