Tuesday, June 02, 2009

So Many Dynamos - The Loud Wars review

In 2006, So Many Dynamos released their second album Flashlights, an album that improved dramatically from their first. This progression continues with The Loud Wars. Opener "Artifacts of Sound" properly introduces us to The Loud Wars by cramming in four minutes of fast, off-kilter, technical, danceable music. With songs like this, the band has the right to sing lyrics like, "Get me out of this party/Because it's boring and so uneventful/Get me out of this party/All the rhyming is so predictable"; there's never a dull moment in The Loud Wars, and it's unpredictable and interesting both musically and lyrically.

Musically, the band has never sounded better. Though initially nothing stands out as much as their most well-known song "Search Party," it's clear that every song is solid and the majority are shining achievements, resulting in what is by far their most consistently impressive album (really, only "Glaciers" fails to leave a lasting impression). What if Talking Heads had the technology of today when they formed? They'd probably have written something similar to "New Bones," one of the strangest, most unique dance rock songs released in recent memory and one of the Dynamos' most anthemic tracks. During its five minutes, the music builds and builds on top of the consistent, driving beat, slowly but surely leading to an explosive outro. It's one of the album's catchiest songs, and it's not a shock that the band chose to release it as the album's first single.

The Loud Wars has some of the band's hardest songs as well; tracks like "Oh, the Devastation!" possess unrelenting, frantic drumming and guitar work reminiscent of Cinemechanica. The impressive musicianship present in The Loud Wars is augmented by the production of Chris Walla, who helped the band create some of the best drum sounds this side of "Tired of Sex" (especially in "The Formula"), something the band wished to accomplish from the start (for anyone interested, the recording of the album is documented on So Many Dynamos' recording/touring/all-purpose blog. Check out the first posts from 2007). The album's only real issues are the sometimes overproduced vocals (notably the first verse of "The Formula") and the occasional synth overload: the synth overpowers the guitar work in "If You Didn't Want to Know," and in the intro to "It's Gonna Rain," it nearly forces the drums out of the picture. However, there are plenty of instances where the synth sounds great (notably the bridge of "Friendarmy"); sometimes the band just struggles to find the right balance.

Often times, carefully crafted and musically impressive albums serve up lyrics that are obviously little more than afterthoughts but in the case of The Loud Wars, things only get better when taking the lyrics into consideration. The band paints pictures of disorder and destruction on both a micro and macro scale. From tales of glaciers melting and the St. Louis Arch collapsing to disputes among friends and romantic interests, the album is teeming with detail-rich wordplay. Lyrics like "Wine stains on your favorite rug/And there's a hole where the living room was," ("It's Gonna Rain") and "If you wanted to know that it happened before/On the kitchen counter, the living room floor" ("If You Didn't Want to Know") exemplify this lyrical specificity, and lyrics like "The fault line skipped/And my knees keep shaking," and "In a million years we'll all just be fossils" ("The Formula") provide a sense of impending doom. If the world's going to end and there's no chance to stop it, we might as well dance and sing along as hard and loud as possible until it collapses; or, to use their words, "I don't want to make amends/I just want to make a mess." With The Loud Wars, So Many Dynamos provides the perfect music to accompany the chaos.

So Many Dynamos are touring throughout the summer, with one show coming up at Valentine's in Albany on June 11th with Maps & Atlases. As good as they are on record, they're even better live. Do yourself a favor and catch them before they blow up and play larger venues. The Loud Wars comes out on June 9th courtesy of Vagrant Records.

Listen to "Artifacts of Sound" and "New Bones" here.

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