Dredg – The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion
Release Date: June 9, 2009
Record Label: Ohlone Recordings
They say that patience is a virtue, and few bands seem to understand that as well as Dredg. Coming four years after the release of the vastly underrated Catch Without Arms, The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion is an album that Dredg fans feared might never see the light of day. As the band teased listeners with an adept live album (but still a live album – who buys those anyway?) and over two years of announcements on the perpetually “upcoming” album, it seemed like the California foursome was simply stalling. And after countless cryptic videos of the crew noodling in the studio, and a smattering of release dates that never seemed to stick, expectations tended to remain within the realm of cautious optimism. Of course, Dredg had yet to release anything close to a bad album, but this sort of creative purgatory seemed to be reserved for burnout bands that write pop songs about high school love – not a group of poets who drafted a record inspired by a Dali painting. Thankfully, The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion is, in fact, real. And it is, in fact, a pretty mindblowing piece of work.
While a lot of music listeners wholeheartedly endorse Dredg, one of the toughest things about doing so is actually describing them to the unexposed. Any musical comparisons come up way short, since the band is one of the few truly unique acts around. I would best try to describe them as some unexpectedly perfect convergence of Muse, The Mars Volta, a handful of other progressive bands, but such comparisons end up being more of a vague disservice, despite their intent of accuracy. If you have never heard these guys before, just go in with an open mind and expect to be awed by Gavin Hayes’s barn-burning vocals and lush, sprawling instrumentation that makes these albums, especially The Pariah… sound more like film scores than traditional collections of disparate tunes.
While decidedly excellent in its own right, Catch Without Arms was probably Dredg’s most sonically straightforward release. Its thematic and concept elements were scaled back, while the group’s true potential for writing rock songs with a universal appeal came to the fore – for proof, see “Ode to the Sun” or “Bug Eyes” – tracks that can stand with the best of alternative radio’s staples. Now free from the shackles of a major label, Dredg now seem to embrace this liberation with a return to more eclectic territory. Bursting at the seams with 18 tracks, including some pretty diverse interludes, calling Pariah "epic" is more of an understatement than a cliché. Beginning with a children’s chorus and unfolding into a pretty huge rock number, “Pariah” leads the album off right, and leads into the eerie, atmospheric “Drunk Slide,” the disc’s first instrumental offering. These types of wordless cuts can seem unsatisfying and masturbatory in the wrong hands, but not here – they handily convey a sense of mood consistent with the overall vibe, and tie opposing songs together quite artfully.
Though Dredg may appeal to the more discerning listener’s sense of challenge, the band has an innate gift for traditional rock accessibility. On “Ireland,” Hayes belts out his lines to deliver a tangible sense of emotion that makes the entire thing swell with an overarching majesty. Similar transcendence is found on the groove-laden, gorgeous brilliance of “Gathering Pebbles” and the disarming tenderness of “Information,” where Hayes sounds like Bono in his prime, and the equally stunning “Mourning This Morning.” It’s not all soft, however, as Dredg skillfully flexes its rock muscle on the fuzzy “Saviour” and the blistering “I Don’t Know.”
Perhaps such diversity might seem alarming at first glance, with the potential to make a dreadfully scattered and fragmented record. The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion suffers no such fate. In fact, I have personally taken it out of my car’s CD changer except for long trips, since I do not want to listen to any less than the entire thing at once. It also bears mentioning that despite the fact that it is their first project without major-label backing, nothing about Pariah sounds lo-fi. In fact, it is one of the cleanest recordings so far this year, and definitely does the band and the project proper justice.
When you finish listening to The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion, you will likely feel a little overwhelmed and exhausted – expected considering the trip the record takes you on. One thing is for sure – you will surely want more. More spins of the album, future Dredg offerings, everything. While the band has been known to kid about its own demise, quality like this makes us all hope it never goes beyond idle conversation. After all, music needs more bands like Dredg.
They do? Really? I would think fans would eat this up.
I hear people complaining about it being too poppy. The ONLY part of this album I have trouble with is the chorus on "Information" could literally have been an 80's song; otherwise, I think those naysayers are being close-minded b/c they want every Dredg record to sound the same. I can't think of one band that takes musical chances and evolves as much as them. I agree that it's nice to see them return to form with an 18 track opus full of their beautiful interludes.
BIG BIG props Steve for writing a wonderfully stellar review and finally gettin Dredg some love on this site.
As far as best album? Please... it's fuckin' Dredg. When you have two albums as vastly different as El Cielo and TPTPTD it's pretty much gonna boil down to "Would you prefer something poppy, yet modern and sophisticated? Or would you rather blaze one down and listen to the sound of India meets Muse?"