Classic Albums: Whatever You Love, You Are by Dirty Three

So I’m going try and write a few more Classic Albums posts here, catalog my fave albums of all-time. I’m going to try and post one album a week for a while and see how that goes, OK? They’re alot of albums I consider classics so if you do too please let me know, OK?

How do you I write about a band who doesn’t have lyrics, or a singer and plays instrumental music? They’re labeled post-rock sometimes too. Well, I don’t know how to write and spell so it should be easy, shouldn’t it? I was diagnosed with dyslexia but I did finish year 10 high school with very basic English skills. After high school ended badly, I hung out in the small town I grew up in for a little while but moved to the city as soon as I could. Which is where I was born so it felt like I was coming home. Since about the age of 16 I was taking six hour bus rides to the city to see gigs and concerts and just get a CD or two because I couldn’t get anything back where I lived. I’m a 90’s kid so almost everything is still on CD. I think people have just forgotten or just never known how hard it was pre-internet but maybe it was just me living at the arse end of the world too.

The first night in the big city which it’s really not that big. After unpacking I was going out and that night was one of those life changing moments not for the band I was planning on seeing but the support band stealing the show and destroying everything I thought about music. It was of course the Dirty Three and how do I sum it up? It’s like when you see a nuclear bomb wipe away everything in it’s path on a TV. The way it started was the most unlikely way to start a gig and the band members didn’t even look like roadies, let alone musicians. Who I thought was the singer Warren Ellis started talking and talking about it being their first time in Perth and wouldn’t shut-up while the other two – one with his guitar Mick Tuner and the other behind his drum kit Jim White looked on totally bored or Woz is at it again. After giving the longest ever introduction speech by a support band they started to play. The tracks seemed to go for half an hour each like time slowed down for them but most likely they were ten minutes, give or take. The pub wasn’t even half full and most people were around the bar or pool tables missing who were going to become one of the greatest bands of the 90’s. I got the self-titled debut album Dirty Three at the front door so it must have been early to mid-90’s. I would still call Dirty Three the greatest live band I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen every show they have played here in the western Aussie capital.

Warren, Jim, Mick and then it’s Jim, Warren, Mick (left to right)

I could have chosen that debut album but I think it would be runner-up to Whatever You Love, You Are as my favorite and most beloved Dirty Three album, I could listen to it forever. It was released in March 2000 but recorded in July 99. Making it my first Classic Albums of the 2000’s plus it’s the fourth in a row of a great run of albums, maybe saying it the’s the last great album by them would be a better way to put it. Starting with that debut self-titled album then the recorded overseas trilogy of Horse Stories, Ocean Songs and then the Whatever album. I’m not counting Sad & Dangerous because it’s basically just home recorded demos. Everything really changed for Dirty Three after this album and since then only three albums: She Has No Strings Apollo and Cinder both have their good moments but less consistent as whole albums overall. Cinder sometimes wins out because of shear volume of songs, nineteen very short songs in all plus the Cat Power‘s Chan Marshall singing the first ever lyrical vocal on a Dirty Three album. Since Cinder only one album has been released after five year gap, Towards The Low Sun in 2012 and nothing since then nothing again.

In 2005 Ocean Songs also was been picked out of their batch of albums for the Don’t Look Back concert series and I can understand why some people might like it better. Made with big name Steve Albini and in his USA studio but I think Whatever You Love, You Are is by far the best album and wished they picked it for those Don’t Look Back gigs. Ellis did said the band gave up trying to have hit album after Ocean Songs and with that I think they got to their plateau with this album by letting them going to the next level. I do admit it’s a hard record to get into but it’s very rewarding if you do.

It’s so much more epic and extreme with all the lengths of the songs going beyond the five minute mark. The shortest track is just over six minutes Some Things I Just Don’t Want To Know and the first two tracks at six minutes plus Some Summers They Drop Like Flys and I Really Should’ve Gone Out Last Night. The last two tracks going up to the seven and half minutes, Stellar and Lullabye For Christie. I Offered It Up To The Stars & The Night Sky almost reaching an unbelievable length at fourteen minutes. As you can tell even the song titles are vast and elephantine. Only six songs would normally be an EP but the total time just drops short of fifty minutes. Ellis playing with his new toy here too, an effects pedal which adds on top of one another until it sounds like a symphony of crazy fiddle players. The first time I saw them play I Offered It Up To The Stars & The Night he continued adding until it the sound of the feedback was something like standing next to a jumbo jet taking off with the two lady’s sitting in front of me putting their fingers in their ears to block it out and then got up leaved as fast as they could out the door when that didn’t work.

This is second album to be recorded in England, the first was Horse Stories in 1996. This time it was on the banks of the Thames at September Sound in a studio which was build by The Who’s Pete Townshend but at the time of recording was owned by Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie. Would it sound odd to say it if The Who and Cocteau Twins could somehow have a lovechild together it might sound like Dirty Three’s Whatever You Love, You Are album. There were two tracks recorded at the same time but didn’t make the cut and was only available for sale at their shows and tours on Lowlands, kind-off limited edition rare disc. Those two songs are Cottonhead and Three Mile Creek which would have taken it up to eight tracks which would be closer to a normal amount on most albums at the time and it would have taken the album up to sixty minutes but I for one am glad these two were left off, they wouldn’t work with the rest and was a good call.

Joe Mckee of Aussie band Snowman called the Whatever album “The most visually evocative Australian record ever.” and also then “It kills me that album” is what Will Oldham aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy said on the Dirty Three Documentary going on to call it their best album plus ex-Bad Seeds Mick Harvey added “Whatever could even be even better than Ocean Songs.” Also looking at the Album cover and pointing out here the guitarist Mick Turner who does all the cover artworks as paintings first but this landscape of a Melbourne jetty and beach, the only non-abstract album artwork on a Dirty Three cover ever. With the one and only live album released also in 2005 plus once again only sold at gigs Live! At Meredith and since then I’ve seen it on ebay for over $100. The bonus or second disc on that doco DVD has Live In Tokyo show in 2006 filmed but there must be more live recording say from their hay day of the 90’s, maybe we have wait a bit longer until someone does reissues of those albums and we’ll get all the demos too, only so far the EP from 2012 called Ulterior Motives has done that too.

Now with the three member on different sides of the world. Ellis in Paris, White in New York or is he back now? And Turner the only one still in Melbourne. Ellis has become Nick Cave’s newest “side-kick” White playing drums for everyone from PJ Harvey, Cat Power, Nina Nastasia, Marianne Faithfull, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and now most recently forming a duo of Xylouris White and soon to have their second album out before the end this year. Turner doing his paintings and solo shows too, playing lately with Jeff Wegener which is funnily because that’s Jim White’s favorite drummer of all-time but last “solo” album from 2013 was more like a lager collective of local musos and even singers under the title Don’t Tell The Driver. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis‘ first soundtrack together came out just after the Cinder album and included a couple of tracks with White and Turner playing too. Now it’s been over four years since that last Dirty Three album. It’s a bit unfair calling them a nostalgia act just yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dirty Three only play a few live shows every few years like earlier this year but who knows maybe they’re are working on a comeback album now or sometime soon?

There was no promo video clips for this album but I’ve got to included this live version above of Some Summers They Drop Like Flys taken from the bonus disc on the Asian edition of the album to finish off this post. They’re still one of greatest live band so finishing with them playing live seems the right way the end, this version is over ten minutes long but it was better being there, you know? I remember Ellis would sometimes introduces this song like as being “About coming home to Australia to find everyone he knows has gone and died.” so ending now on that happy note.

Whatever You Love, You Are track listing and times:

1. Some Summers They Drop Like Flys – 6:20
2. I Really Should’ve Gone Out Last Night – 6:52
3. I Offered It Up to the Stars & The Night Sky – 13:40
4. Some Things I Just Don’t Want To Know – 6:08
5. Stellar – 7:30
6. Lullabye For Christie – 7:46


This was re-wrote/edited from my old blog. So does everyone else consider this Dirty Three album a classic album? Or just what’s your fave Dirty Three album?


  1. I just put this one on now for the first time in ages. For me, it’s a toss-up between Horse Stories and Ocean Songs as my favourites of theirs, but this one is not far behind and definitely deserving of classic status. It’s just draw-droppingly beautiful music, with an almost classical sound, and I’m not sure there was really anywhere new for them to go after this. I like your description of this sounding like the love child of The Who and Cocteau Twins; I never really thought of it that way, but it makes sense. Oh, and they’re one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, too. Never look Jim White in the eyes while he’s drumming: he will burn a hole in your soul with that thousand-yard stare.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing, really! Gorgeous! You knew I loved post-rock, why didn’t you showed me this before!
    That’s a great story, the one of the Dirty Three gig you went in the 90s!

    Liked by 1 person

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