Friday, March 15, 2013

REVIEW: Dick Diver - Calendar Days

The music of Melbourne's Dick Diver is so damn charming that I'd like to invite the band to the prom.  There are some tricky bits to the plan.  First, there is only one of me and four of them.  Second, only one of them is female.  Third, since I haven't been in school for decades, I'm probably not eligible for any prom except as a chaperone anyway.  Fourth, I haven't asked my wife if she minds if I take four strangers to a prom (and what does it mean if she shrugs and says "whatever").  Oh, and John probably won't let me use the WYMA corporate jet to pick up my dates anyway just because of the so-called "issues" raised by the auditors after my Glasgow/Helsinki trip (Cannes isn't really so far away--it is a very small continent, as continents go) .  So perhaps I should just tell you about Calendar Days and stay home.

To my ears, Dick Diver's music is organically Australian, a country-inflected guitar pop spiritually indebted to Paul Kelly, The Drones, The Triffids, and the Go-Betweens.  Musically, the pace is relaxed and there is plenty of jangle with layered guitars. Piano, keys and pedal steel flesh out the sound.  Dramatic scope, and tension where it exists, results from a finally-tuned lyric more than from the intensity of the arrangements.  But the melodies are top drawer and the performances contain myriad rewarding subtleties.  Lyrically, Dick Diver finds poetry -- and a nonthreatening melancholy -- in ordinary daily existence.  If you are looking for loud, hard-rocking jams, this isn't the album.    However, despite the laconic delivery, the songcraft is brilliant in its deceptive simplicity.  One doesn't know whether Calendar Days sounds so cohesive yet relaxed because the band is great and naturally relaxed, or because it is both great and well-rehearsed.  And of course, the answer doesn't matter.

The album commences with drummer Steph Hughes singing the restrained "Blue & That"-- three minute of melancholy pop bliss.  The opener is followed by three pop songs that have made my favorites playlist already -- "Alice", "Calendar Days" and "Water Damage", the first with Rupert Edwards and Al McKay trading vocals, the second with Hughes taking the lead, and the third with trading male/female vocals.  Here are "Alice" and "Water Damage" --

The fifth and sixth tracks, "Boys" and "Two Year Lease" provide a dialed-down, storytelling.  The former is about a soured friendship, the second a metaphor for transitions.

Rocker "Lime Green Shirt" brings back a bit more guitar muscle, and a delicious seasoning of pedal steel.  It is followed by the achingly beautiful "Gap Life": Steph's vocals, the guitars, pedal steel, and harmonica combine to provide what is perhaps the most memorable track as Steph muses about an uneventful gap year ("not much going on between channel two and channel nine").  The next track is the triumphant country-tinged rock of "Bondi 98", the hardest rocking track of the set.  Quite frankly, I could have heard it on an R.E.M. album and not been surprised, and certainly not disappointed.

The album closes with the gentle "Amber", the longest track of the album, and the witty "Languages of Love".

The members of the band are Rupert Edwards (vocals and guitar), Alastair McKay (vocals and guitar), Al Montfort (bass), and Steph Hughes (drums and vocals).  Edwards and McKay founded the group, and are the primary songwriters.  Montfort also plays with UV Race, Total Control and Lower Plenty.  Hughes is co-lead vocalist and guitarist for Boomgates, whose 2012 album was a top five pick for me, and has been a co-presenter for an Australian music show on Triple J in Melbourne.

Calendar Days is their second full length, following 2011's New Start Again.  It was produced by Mikey Young of, among other projects, Eddy Current Suppression Ring.  It is out now on the Chapter Music label.

I'm not in the prognostication business, and I don't know whether Calendar Days will make Dick Diver a buzz band outside of Australia.  However, I suspect that the band really isn't concerned about that.  They seem like the type who make music they want to make for the people who want to hear that music.  But the album has made me a fan.  And this disc isn't leaving my player any time soon.

Twitter ( @dick_diver )
Chapter Music

1 comment:

Edoc said...

Streaming Water Damage now, and I'm loving the go-betweens vibe.