After allegedly sifting through over 70 demos since their last record, Australian indie rockers DMA’s finally release their fourth album How Many Dreams?. Described by the band as a “labour of love”, the new record sees the three-piece embrace festival-ready dance-rock, sun-soaked psychedelia and swooning string sections. It’s bold, it’s dense, it’s varied… but is it worth the wait? Join me as I listen to How Many Dreams? track by track to find out.
DMA’s kick off their new record with a psych-rock delight – a burst of sound that simultaneously exudes hazy nostalgia and a momentous optimism for the future. With a grainy bass tone hand-picked straight from a mid-90s Underworld track, a nod to the recent experimental-pop soundscapes of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and a refrain that’s bound to get stuck in your head upon the very first listen, How Many Dreams? begins on a heady high. It’s safe to say that vocalist Tommy O’Dell’s question of ‘can we dance to this mess’ will be answered readily this festival season. So far, so good.
Olympia, whilst perhaps playing it a little safe compared to the genre-bending of the album’s opener, is a strong addition to DMA’s’ repertoire of singles. Matthew Mason’s guitar trills are brought back to the forefront, singlehandedly ushering in the season for grass-stains on your trainers, beery picnics in the park and braving beer gardens without a coat (‘all so gentle as the spring, until the voices start to sing’). Olympia’s sound may be predictable, but it’s a welcome soundtrack for the springtime: simple, effective songwriting.
Boorish and beery, Everybody’s Saying Thursday’s The Weekend is a new classic in the lad-rock canon. Whether that appeals to you or not, the track is inarguably delivered with zeal and will bound to connect with the next generation of pubbing ’n’ clubbing adolescents. The production is satisfyingly crisp, the acoustic guitars shimmer with a subtle tinge of regret, and O’Dell manages to marry hedonism with sentimentality – I’m just left wanting a little bit more detail, even if sordid, on the ‘casual casualties of smoking and drinking’…there’s lyrical potential here left undiscovered in favour of keeping everything radio-friendly.
On Dear Future, O’Dell acts as the irritable party-goer, tired and impatient (‘caning beats and alcohol, it makes me want to smoke’). We’ve all been there. Its plaintive, cynical lyric – reminiscent of Phillip Larkin in its suffocating countryside setting and defeatist tone – is a surprising, but welcome change of pace. Don’t worry though, The Verve-esque string section, soft and sweeping, keeps the cynicism beautifully melodic.
Admittedly, I’m conflicted on I Don’t Need To Hide – and it seems as if the band themselves are too. In the flurry of techno toppers and overdriven guitars, DMA’s seem unsure whether they’re producing a song for the rock concert, or for the rave. Granted, a melding of club culture and guitar music can work wonders (just look at the ‘Madchester’ phenomena of the late 80’s/early 90’s), but I Don’t Need To Hide feels more like a strained relationship of the two genres rather than a match made in the Hacienda.
Another string section? DMA’s must have listened to Urban Hymns on loop whilst producing How Many Dreams?, but I’m not complaining. As cheesy as a song entitled Forever would suggest, the group finishes the first side of their new record with a ballad for estranged lovers and stumbling drunks alike (‘To be with you is the strangest thing I’ve known, and I’m turning like forever…’). Lost, confused and vulnerable, it’s perhaps DMA’s at their least boisterous – O’Dell has no answers to offer his listener, only questions.
Like all great Oasis works, I don’t really care what DMA’s lyrics are saying here, and that’s fine. They read, they scan, they rhyme – they’re nothing of note. What I do care about, however, is the way the song makes me feel. Turn the speaker up: Fading Like A Picture is a sun-soaked, infectiously melodic anthem, conjuring up images of mosh pits gone by. Straight off the count-in live drum track, it’s an effervescent piece of Britpop-esque guitar music that makes you feel like you’re 15 again (with all the newfound drunken invincibility and social tribulations that come with that age). God, I can almost smell the Dark Fruits.
Jai Alai will remind you of Blossoms’ tender moments: O’Dell channels Tom Ogden’s knack for ear-worm melodies and naive piano fumbling, helping the listener glide introspectively between the record’s energetic moments. A childlike, glittering lead line rings out with a mournful wonder: simple song, not so simple emotions.
Credit where credit’s due, here O’Dell he proves that he’s the last of the true romantics with such poetic sentiments as ‘I get ravey about you”. Jokes aside, Get Ravey is self-aware in its silliness: an upbeat, synth-heavy romantic ditty that knows exactly what it is, with some great vocal interplay to boot. Whilst the song is undoubtedly a fun listen, it does unfortunately scream ‘filler in-between the singles’.
You know that mid tempo song in a band’s setlist that isn’t quite as emotional as the slow tearjerkers, but isn’t quite upbeat enough to move around to? Well, 21 Year Vacancy is likely to be that… the song that DMA’s audiences will have to awkwardly sway to. Each member of the band plays it extremely safe, without any resonating emotional through-line to make up for the palatable plainness. Maybe leave it off the set list, lads?