The Damnwells - No One Listens to the Band Anymore
Record Label: Pledge Music Recordings/Self-Released
Release Date: March 15, 2011
There's always that one band. You just barely discover them, alerted to their existence only by way of a passing recommendation from a casual friend. You give them a shot and after just one song you're already in love. You delve into their entire catalog and question why it took you until now to find them. You grow to love everything about their music; finding something unique and memorable in each chord in each song. For all intents and purposes, you're hooked. And with each repeated spin of each song, of each record, you start to wonder - why the hell isn't this band more popular? One such band is Brooklyn, New York outfit The Damnwells.
Like many artists, The Damnwells have their following, despite being an under-the-radar act that mainstream markets have yet to smile upon. But for all the praise and dedication they inspire in their fans, the question still remains: How is this band not all over the damn place? Their newest release, the self depricatingly-titled No One Listens to the Band Anymore pushes that question to even greater urgency. Though the group has had a consistent string of releases (three full lengths; three EPs) they've never garnered much in the way of critical acclaim.
This is unfortunate, as the band has always been experts at crafting instantaneously catchy rock music that draws on both a healthy dose of alt. country and 80s rock staples such as later-career Replacements. Chief songwriter and lead vocalist Alex Dezen's approach to lyricism nods to such influences, with heart-on-sleeve emotion and a kind of sincerity that is becoming more and more rare in rock music. Dezen's propensity for penning songs that are as toe-tappingly catchy as they are heart-wrenchingly honest is showcased better than ever before on No One Listens to the Band Anymore, a collection of 12 songs that run the gamut from folk-inspired ballads to upbeat, guitar-heavy rockers.
"Feast of Hearts" is a crisp, radio-ready track that boasts chiming guitars, impassioned vocal harmonies and lyrical gems such as "We saw the ocean from the East coast/Coming for Coney Island/And all the freak-show ghosts/There's nothing to it, she says/Puts her hands against the midnight sky/The summer that Elvis died." "Let's Be Civilized" rolls along on a steady beat, with upbeat horn instrumentation punctuating striking guitar dashes, crescendoing into a windows-down sing-a-long ready chorus of "Set me up another shot/Close the window stop the clock/Let's sing Grecian lullabies/I'm Dionysus in disguise" that ends on a somewhat bittersweet refrain of "No one's going to rescue you/'Cause no one has a fucking clue./So let's be civilized/Let's say I love you." It's relatable themes like these that help make The Damnwells' music so powerful; so memorable. One could point to just about any track on the album as noteworthy and they'd be correct. There's hardly a moment's filler to be found here, just genuine, no-bullshit rock with the kind of heart that music critics seemingly love to insist is "missing" from contemporary rock radio.
There are some moments though that flirt with filler-dom. Closing tracks "Sophia" and "The Same Way" are a bit anti-climatic, especially after ten consecutive outstanding songs. The Damnwells have always had a certain knack for closing out their albums on high notes (most notably with "WWXII" on 2009's One Last Century, one of the finest songs that band has recorded) but this particular time around the closing moments feel a bit disappointing upon initial listens. However, with each repeated spin of No One Listens to the Band Anymore, a recognition for the importance of each track on the album develops. So while songs like these may not amount to a particularly thrilling conclusion, they do round things out rather nicely.
In the end perhaps it's not so puzzling that a more widespread audience has yet to pick up on The Damnwells' brand of folk-inspired rock. There's a decided amount of honesty in their music that often is hard for casual audiences to fully appreciate. Yet with the sudden popularity of bands such as The Gaslight Anthem, and the neo-folk popularity of acts like Mumford & Sons, perhaps the mainstream is ready for a return to that kind of sincerity in popular music. Perhaps it's a matter of timing, and The Damnwells are just a record or two away from critical acclaim. One can only hope, as the more bands like The Damnwells there are on the mainstream radar, the better. Whatever the case, it's no small feat that The Damnwells have managed to sustain themselves for this long (roughly 11 years now) while operating at this level of success. If you're looking for a new band to fall in love with; for an album to cement itself comfortably in your weekly playlist; for a collection of songs to touch on every corner of your emotional spectrum, look no further than No One Listens to the Band Anymore. Here's hoping the opposite will prove true and that these New York songsmiths will amass the larger fanbase they deserve sometime in the near future.
Sort of wish it didn't take until the fourth paragraph to go into detail with the songs. Plus, I think you could've cut the review down by at least 200 words and still have said everything you wanted to. No shots or anything. Minor criticisms aside, this a nice review and readers can really tell how much you love this band/album. It kinda helps I love this, too haha (easily one of my favorites of '11 so far). Great stuff, Chris.