The Dingees - Rebel Soul Sound System
Record Label: Self Released / International City
Release Date: September 24, 2010
People who remember The Dingees only as a band who released a few albums on Tooth & Nail records may not be aware that the band is still together. Not only have The Dingees been together and working away playing local shows in Southern California since their 2001 album The Crucial Conspiracy, but now they may have just released the best album of their career. Rebel Soul Sound System came out in September 2010 on Jamendo.com. Following in the footsteps of more and more bands these days, The Dingees are releasing the album for free, so there really is no reason not to give the album a listen.
From the beginning of the opening track “Sound Depression” the band’s DIY ethics are evident. The album is clearly and unabashedly home recorded. The production is raw but not muddled. This method can either elevate or ruin the album. Some of the lyrics are hard to make out, which can pose a problem since the album does not come with a lyric sheet. More than once I found myself wishing that some of the songs might have had a more polished sound, as it might have attracted a wider audience. The Dingees deserve to be heard but the raw sound might turn off some listeners. Their songwriting, while not perfect, really deserves to be played far more than anything on mainstream radio.
Case in point is the song “Still On The Move”. To my ears, this song screams “single”. Of course it’s not like any single that actually would get played on mainstream radio in 2010, but it is extremely catchy, and also serves as The Dingees’ mission statement:“still on the move / still in that groove”. The Dingees have not gone away - far from it - they are better than ever.
The Dingees have never been one to shy away from speaking their mind. Since their first album, they have been clearly of an anti-establishment mindset. However, coming from a band that has no record label, self records an album, and releases it for free, The Dingees are unarguably more authentic when they speak against Corporate America than the run-of-the-mill angsty punk bands that fill the radio. As Pegleg sings in “Who Stole The Soul In Rock N Roll?”, “signed the line early that Monday / spent advance money last Sunday / record release coming tomorrow / the rest of your story filled with sorrow” and “the end has come for the major label”. “Global Tribal” begins with over a minute of clips from peace protests before breaking into one of the catchiest horn lines on the album and a call for all the peoples of the world to unite. The band’s boldness is not limited to worldly topics, however. They address the injustice of the world, and the longing of those who suffer for the peace of heaven in “I’ll Be ‘Neath The Canopy”: “There will be rest for the weary / there will be drying tearing eyes / there we’ll see Him in His glory / there will be no crying, weeping eyes”.
While the album is a marked departure from the clean sound of their Tooth & Nail days, the raw production is not the only change to the band’s sound. Several songs have the band toying with electronic beats and sounds, in a very unconventional way. “Test the Champion” has a high noise through part of the song that sounds almost like a warped tape. “Reconstruction” mixes a hyper electronic drum & bass with the traditional reggae sound. The Dingees by no means have abandoned their past, however. “Smoke Signals”, for instance, is the most jazzy song that the band has recorded since “Betrayal” from their first album.
In the past nine years it is clear that The Dingees have not only stuck around but have grown considerably stronger as a band. Their aesthetic is more defined and unique than on any of their previous work. With no record label executives to appease, The Dingees are free to explore all their creative impulses. While they don’t always work, they do bring us gems that we never would have had the chance to experience otherwise. I highly recommend this album to anyone who enjoys good music.
Favorite songs: Global Tribal, Sill On The Move, I’ll Be ‘Neath The Canopy