Review Summary: disco dancing with the best.
I think I was in Grade 10 or 11 when Dillinger Four was supposed to have a new album out. There'd been some controversy about a recently released D4 live album that was allegedly unofficial, but I didn't really care either way---I wanted new material. Well I'm not in high school anymore. I'm in my second year of University, in fact, and it's worth noting I took an extra year in high school. So basically it's been a few years---about five or six I'd say. That's a long, long time for any album to take to get finished. But a punk album? It's practically an eternity. But to my relief and assuredly to the relief of the people at Fat Wreck, C I V I L W A R
is finally here. I could ask why it took so long. Was it a matter of laziness? No. Is the album overly ambitious? Er...not at all. No, chances are it took a long time because it took a long time. Dillinger Four has always been a band that prides themselves on the fact that they're regular dudes first and a band second. It's not that they don't care, it's that they don't care. So yes, it's finally here. And yes, it took ***ing forever. Guess we'll all have to get over it.
Getting over it is easy once you press play. C I V I L W A R
is a familiar album, even if you've never heard it. Like all Dillinger Four albums, it dares to be called pop-punk. It's impossible (and ignorant) to deny its catchiness. Oftentimes channelling Holy Bible-era Manic Street Preachers, Dillinger Four is a gifted melodic outfit. But like the Manics, they employ melody and hooks with a sense of sardonic-taunting. The guitars are loud, the bass is almost louder. D4 vocalist/guitarist Erik Funk is probably what James Dean Bradfield would sound like if he had a cold and a dangerous smoking habit. I mean that in the nicest possible way. Funk's vocals are borderline wheezy, he tends to sing through his nose and he has a tendency to trail off. This, of course, rules. Then there's Paddy. Paddy is kind of Erik's antithesis. Instead of his voice being high, somewhat air-struck and from the nose, Paddy sounds like he's singing with rocks in his throat. It's like he's spent the last few years gargling whisky and drinking motor oil. Once again, this rules. Of course the band isn't exclusively comparable to the Manic Street Preachers, but their use of distortion, hooks, mushed spaceless song-titles (Americaspremierfaithbasedinitiative/Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldf allapart) and goofy sound-clips make it a convenient launching point. There's also certain bouncy-energy to their sound, something in line with the Stiff Little Fingers. There's attitude, sarcasm and a certain punk vigour about their music but the way they blend it with an almost raucous sense of melody that makes for a truly original sound, one that's been conveniently left untouched between albums.
This is why it's easy to get over the wait. As soon as the sound-clip that opens “A Jingle for the Product” tell us we'll be disco dancing in no time, a quick and familiar drum roll kicks things off and before you know it you'd almost think you put Situationist Comedy on instead. It's not that they've re-written a past album----we know they're a punk band, a formula is expected. It's that the formula is almost perfect. Listening to C I V I L W A R
is like being 16 again; a time when pop-punk still ruled supreme, when most of us were embarrassed to admit we were listening to it. Dillinger Four makes us feel 16 again because they remind us of simpler times. It sounds hokey, and it's supposed to. Still, it's not like Dillinger Four sounds sixteen, it's that they know their sound and it hasn't aged at all. They've slowed down and sadly the guitars aren't as needlessly loud as they've been in the past, but there's a level of consistency you have to admire.
If you're lost on comparisons and seemingly vague inferences of “loud” pop-punk, it only takes a listen or two to catch on. As said, the guitars are loud and the bass is probably louder. Both vocalists respective instruments mirror their voices perfectly. Paddy's bass is as simple as it gets. Like his voice, it's thick, nasty and somewhat of an acquired taste. Funk's guitar is scathing, biting and somehow concurrently thin and boisterous. Simple and mid-paced, the drums are almost a non-factor. Like a rear-engine automobile, Lane Pederson takes his kit and his pornstar name out of the lime-light and instead makes sure everything is on pace and solid. Don't get me wrong, the drumming is in no way sub-par, it's just not the focus.
Individually, the songs are what you'd expect them to be. “Fruity Pebbles” is a slower, anthemic and ridiculously simple Paddy-led track that sounds kind of like what Weezer would write if they were borderline alcoholics. Parishiltonisametaphor is probablythebesttrackonthealbum. It isn't hugely different from the rest of the album: it starts with an unexpected piano-passage but for the majority of its 3 minute runtime the song is Dillinger Four at their most recognizable. But the end is one of the best things they've ever done. Comparable in a way to “D4=Putting the 'F' Back in Art”, Parishiltonisametaphor climaxes when it drives to a halt, pausing on Paddy's utterance of the ultra-quotable line “asshole is a fashion that I never could afford to wear”. This is actually a perfect segue: the lyrics are extremely well done, as are the song titles. They certainly pass the “MSN Name” test: the minute I put “Minimum Wage is a Gateway Drug” in my personal message I had about twelve people asking me if I made it up. The album wasn't out yet, so I didn't hesitate to lie. I think that's what the band would have wanted.
Ratings are stupid and arbitrary. C I V I L W A R
is anywhere between a 3 and a 5 depending on who you talk to. Objectively, it's a clean-cut four. Of course objectivity is a crock of ***, so now we're back at square one. In the end, the rating is futile. C I V I L W A R
isn't a faultless album. Not only is the title a complete pain in the ass to type, but considering the time it took to come to come out it's surprisingly short. Then again it's a pop-punk album; expecting anything more than the standard 35-40 minutes would probably make you an idiot. Of course finding out that they wrote these songs in the last 12 months (negating much of the 6 year wait) is kind of a kick in the balls. It lacks some of the overwhelming instrumental punch of their past outings, but it boils down to a hardly noticeable compromise. The instruments no longer drown out the vocals but they come pretty close. So where does that leave C I V I L W A R
? All that needs to be said is that C I V I L W A R was well worth the wait. Considering it was a pretty ***ing long wait, that probably says it better than “X/5” ever could.
Pretty ***ing Good out of Five.