I love to watch a band progress and grow. Dikembe has been one of those bands for me. I initially checked them because of their connection to Wavelets. Dikembe first broke out with their Chicago Bowls EP back in 2011. I was fortunate enough to hear that right after it was released. I basically listened to that fucking thing for two or three weeks straight whenever I drove to work. The band has released multiple split releases and one amazing LP in the intervening three years. It’s now time for them to tackle their sophomore release. Things being what they are, there is a lot to live up to.
To be direct, Mediumship absolutely reached and exceeded the bar the band set for themselves. It is a very different record though. This is a record that breaks the band away from their previous emo/indie influenced punk rock. The songs have slowed down, the vocals are less forceful in many ways, and the overall presentation is something else. But, ultimately, it works. It really fucking works.
While they may be getting a little away from the sound they used to use, it still exists in many places on Mediumship. It’s just the band has gotten a bit more versatile with how they’re doing things. Broad Shoulders, as a record, was economical. It was punchy and too the point. Mediumship is a record full of songs given room to breathe. There are songs like “Las Vegas Weather” that have a very traditional, alternative rock verse. The chorus explodes, and flexes some post-hardcore influence. That is really the modus operadi of the record. Seemingly tired of being defined by one genre or the other, Dikembe are basically doing whatever the fuck they want. “24 Karats” is probably the best example of this.
That’s not to say it is so dramatically different as to be off putting. Songs like “Hood Rat Messiah” and the previously released “Donuts In A Six Speed” will certainly leave older fans satisfied. It’s enough like their old stuff to appeal in that regard, but it’s different enough to keep people interested. Basically, it’s not one or the other. While some of the exuberance of Broad Shoulders might be gone, Dikembe more than makes up for it in really compelling ways.
Here are the best records of the year. Not much label diversity here, but that is just how it goes sometimes.
1) Joie De Vivre – We’re All Better Than This (Count Your Lucky Stars)
2) Dowsing – It’s Still Pretty Terrible (Count Your Lucky Stars)
3) Dikembe – Broad Shoulders (Tiny Engines)
4) Dads – American Radass (this is important) (Flannel Gurl)
5) State Faults – Desolate Peaks (Tiny Engines)
6) Best Practices – The EP LP (Tiny Engines)
7) Suis La Lune – Riala (Topshelf)
8) You Blew It! – Grow Up, Dude (Topshelf)
9) Beach House – Bloom (Sub Pop)
10) The Dandelion War – We Were Always Loyal To Lost Causes (Deep Elm)
I know there has been a lot of people (myself including) hyping this supposed “emo revival” stuff. Dikembe is one of those bands that shithead bloggers like me will champion. The reason is because everything you want in this genre is right there on the record. Run a checklist on Broad Shoulders, everything is there. Gruff, melodic punk filtered through 90’s emo sensibilities? Check. Yelled, off kilter vocals? Check. Fantastic lyrics delivered in an engaging way? Check.
This shit rules, ok? Honestly, the review could end there. After the fantastic Chicago Bowls EP from last year, Broad Shoulders is one of those rare records that lives up to the hype. Damn near everything works here. Steven Gray (guitar/vocals) has a voice that, while not technically “great”, is perfect for this. He can go from sounding pretty straight forward to almost unhinged without skipping a beat. Rounding out the rest of the band is Ryan Willems (guitar), Kenny Jewett (bass), and David Bell (drums). Goddamn if they don’t play the hell out of this shit.
I kind of wish this record was longer. With 10 songs coming in just this side of 30mins, it is certainly over pretty quickly. But, you know, fair enough. Every member of this band is in another band (isn’t that just a like a Gainesville band?), and two of those bands both put out full lengths last year (Wavelets and Senders). This record is a no brainer for being one of the best of the year
Stream It (BandCamp)