Review Summary: And if it ain't what you had pictured then yeah that sounds about right
I assumed Dear and the Headlights would drop off of the face of the Earth. Yeah, sorry for the sentiment, but you know how it goes, the band has a breakthrough, smashing album and then just kind of doesn’t ever produce much of anything after, and if they do it’s always put down as being the ‘retarded cousin’ of their former creation. I figured Dear and the Headlights would follow in this trend and just fade into the ether after making that one album that would define them. But, for some reason or another, Dear and the Headlights put out Drunk Like Bible Times
, a goddamn smash-bang of a sophomore album, having everything a pop album should, and a little bit more.
Dear and the Headlights is really just Ian Mertzger singing and 4 other people supporting his vocal line; honestly, the instrumental aspect of the album is a very fine showing, but it’s nothing you’ll have not heard before, although it is definitely a necessary component to keep things interesting. Dear and the Headlights shines in its vocal moments, though, and there are enough great moving, sing-along moments to make this album very, very enjoyable. I’m Not Crying. You’re Not Crying, Are You?
, the opening track, is definitely his most powerful vocal performance on the album, and consequently the best song; at just 2:57, just 6 seconds from being the shortest track on the album, I’m Not Crying
is a masterpiece for Dear and the Headlights. It’s perfect pop under a great, great vocal performance, with some interesting lyrical blathering that seems to be Metzger’s own reflections upon his career:
Then the howls and moans pour from the black
and it's a sea of blank faces straight to the back
Aggressively mediocre in every single way
Yet you're the only reason that they came
The final crescendo and finale of I’m Not Crying
is downright spectacular; from Metzger’s vocals to the beautiful danceable guitar-drums celebration at the end.
With the best moment of the album already gone in the first 3 minutes, one might feel like not wasting their precious time on the rest of the album. Well, I strongly suggest against it; even though it’s not as great as the first track, the next 11 are still pretty damn good. Wiletta
is the ideal slow, mournful ballad, while Now It’s Over
is a perfect, pounding outcrying of emotion. Try is perhaps the most successful and unsuccessful track; what was a boring acoustic guitar/vocal duo grows into a beautiful lazy pop-rock piece and transcends into a great performance with Mertzger’s cries of “And toasting new beginnings saying sorry I thought it would work!”
to finally regressing back to that same dreary acoustic line, leaving a bitter ending to what could have become a sweeping, grand track on par with I’m Not Crying. You’re Not Crying, Are You?
. But some things are just too good to happen twice on a record. I Know
leaves the album on a high note, however, featuring not only the necessary hand-claps to make this a fantastic and familiar pop album, but also containing the only other vocals in the album that aren’t by Mertzger; the gang-choir spouting their lines along with Ian is a really sweet, appropriate ending without being too cliché or chokingly sugared.
But the album has a few flaws, namely with its acoustic parts. While Wiletta
and Flowers For My Brain
don’t become watered down by their acoustic introductions, it does become apparent that, even though this is an almost one-singer show for Mertzger, the rest of the Dear and the Headlights gang should not be forsaken, mostly because their presence helps to keep some semblance of flow to the album and allows Mertzger’s emotional appeal to be accentuated by the dynamics of the band. Along with Try
’s lackluster finale being a snooze, Parallel Lines
can be skipped altogether, because while it does feature, at first, some interesting guitarplay, the song begins to lull into an almost sleep-inducing tune.
However, don’t let one rotten track spoil the record; Drunk Like Bible Times
is an almost consistently excellent pop record, if a little bit familiar. Mertzger’s a good singer, and the band is a consistently above-average indie-pop group, and the combination of the two creates some spectacular moments. Drunk Like Bible Times
is one of 2008’s better pop records; I didn’t expect it, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise.
Dear and the Headlights are:
Ian Metzger - vocals, Guitar
Robert Cissell - Guitar, Keys
PJ Waxman - Guitar
Chuckie Duff - Bass
Mark Kulvinskas - drums