Review Summary: The joke's on us.
This is not El Cielo
; nor is this Leitmotif
, Catch Without Arms
, or The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion
. Comparing a release such as this one to dredg’s previous body of work would be utterly fruitless and downright foolish because right from the get-go, “Another Tribe” carries a firm message within its distinctive hip-hop backdrop and strategically placed finger snapping: the joke’s on us. Regrettably, dredg, along with notable hip-hop collaborator/producer Dan the Automator, might be the only ones laughing in the end as the group’s fifth record, Chuckles & Mr. Squeezy
, serves as a passive-aggressive one-fingered salute to everything these fellows from Los Gatos, California were once associated with.
Masked and nearly abandoned behind dredg’s latest stretch for progression (spoiler alert: layers and layers of beats) is that all too familiar slide guitar that, when heard by fans and causal listeners alike, caused us to emphatically scream “dredg!” Instead, listeners are treated to a fairly artificial brand of “dark pop;” a label coined by lead singer Gavin Hayes when prompted to describe the outing sonically. Looping beats, prominent bass, and a concerted effort towards writing rhythmically dominate the instrumental offerings here.
Take the third, fifth, and eighth selections off of Chuckles & Mr. Squeezy
as fitting examples of dredg’s altered approach to songwriting. Strutting, down-tempo, with a swanky beat and accented with brooding keys, “The Tent” is one of the three tracks Dan the Automator collaborated on and is essentially Radiohead suffocating in sex appeal – a mix that proves to be oddly enjoyable and frustratingly attractive, regardless of how atypical it sounds. The lively, upbeat electronics that spring throughout “Down Without a Fight” serve to indicate that even with some deviation from the norm for dredg, a willingness to experiment can yield quality results as the piece is both immediately danceable, yet thoughtful and tastefully composed. Significant as well is the haunting tune of “Kalathat”. Nakedly vulnerable, this acoustically driven and hushed slow burner serves as a timely reprieve from the beating
that becomes standard fare throughout the record.
Fans of older material, prepare to be utterly disappointed as Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy
barely bothers to acknowledge the atmospheric, organic form of songwriting offered in years past. Previously scrapped pieces “The Ornament” and “Where I’ll End Up” find dredg briefly revisiting their subdued, lush qualities, leaving behind the overt hip-hop influence of the record in favor of their trademark alternative rock. Fortunately for Chuckles & Mr. Squeezy
, this happens to be a saving grace for the album as the amount of experimentation that coats most of these eleven songs is overwhelming.
To be rather frank, dredg spends most of the record’s forty minute runtime attempting to peddle increasingly accessible tunes while sacrificing the depth that their output has characteristically displayed up to now. This is a band lunging past the point of no return musically, whoring themselves to increasingly simplistic and conventional songwriting. “Sun Goes Down” is most indicative of dredg’s yearning to be embraced by the masses as the song is carried by a mundane beat and an atrocious chorus that will undoubtedly force longtime fans to shake their heads. If cheap, club anthem attempts fail to disgust, “The Thought of Losing You” is a captivating alternative. …Captivating in the sense that “The Thought of Losing You” is the equivalent of heading to Baskin-Robbins only to order a scoop of vanilla in a cup. Of all the musical flavors dredg has shown in the past, they thought best to revert to simple, uninteresting mainstream fundamentals? Case in point: save your money.
Clear is the fact that while listening to the bulk of Chuckles & Mr. Squeezy
, fans of dredg’s older material will be searching for a seashell in a sea of shells. Maybe the experimentation remains in the form of a simplified approach to songwriting and a sure to be controversial nod towards electronic and hip-hop influences, but disappointingly, this is all for worse. Chuckles & Mr. Squeezy
is the product of a band that has simply snapped as dredg has self immolated their music in a shower of beats and shallow accessibility in a final, desperate attempt to garner acclaim that was right in front of them this entire time. Instead, they may have mere lit ablaze everything their fans knew them for. The joke’s on us.