Dikembe - Broad Shoulders
Record Label: Tiny Engines
Release Date: August 14, 2012
Look, I've put this review off for a long time. For a bunch of reasons. I'm not quite sure why it feels necessary or entertaining to tell you this (probably because it's neither of those things). On the intro track to twinkle rock stars/Wavelets co-conspirators Dikembe, we hear the words, "I'm always in motion" repeated about as forcefully as someone disinterested can sound. Perhaps that's my reason. On the go. Here to there. But it's also kind of what Broad Shoulders is - a short, fast, angry album that understands if we ever sit and think too long about all of the shit in our lives, then our lives simply become that shit. Or maybe it's this: maybe this album scares me because of what it so clearly states are the steps to moving forward.
The band's stellar Chicago Bowls EP was the promising start that made Broad Shoulders so hotly anticipated, but Steven Gray is most of the reason we leave affected and exhausted. He is a force, it's that simple. His raspy-then-nasally yelp gives lines like, "This house is a machine / That I don't understand / Just live inside it / And hope it won't kill me," the emotional weight of a sumo wrestler. But his talented bandmates also give his words always-interesting places to land. "We Could Become River Rats" has zig-zagging stanzas from picked madness to heavy-hitting alt rock. Dikembe is a band not worried about style; only about what hits the smartest.
Take "I Just Don't Understand What All These Kids Dig About Him," it's equal parts schizo bass and off-kilter drum smacks and singing that could be described as both non-chalant and totally pissed. And it drags right into slow-burner and guitar showcase "Not Today, Angel." Gray mourns, "Your room is shifting / In the place that you call home / Without me in it" - and we can picture the scene with such clarity it's like we're in there, sobbing in a corner right alongside him. That's the thing about Broad Shoulders, repeat listens only seem to make the whole thing harder to take. Real emotion doesn't dilute with time.
I fear this album can hurt as much as it helps. But I guess that's a good thing.(?) The meandering grunge track "That's How What Works" kind of sums this whole thing up in some of Gray's most straightforward, cliche and hard-hitting lyrics: "We'll be better next year / If we make it through this year." First people to say that, Dikembe are not. But when someone tells you, "It's going to be alright," isn't the first thing you want to do is punch them in the face? Isn't that how it normally goes? When Gray sings it, I end up feeling more for him than myself. But I also sit up a little bit and think about what "alright" actually means, and how someone actually gets there. See? Scary.
Recommended If You Like: Wavelets, You Blew It!, Sport, Dads