Dear and the Headlights - Drunk Like Bible Times
Release Date: September 30th, 2008
Record Label: Equal Vision
In a roundabout way, Dear and the Headlights are a simple band. On 2007's Small Steps, Heavy Hooves, the band's Equal Vision debut, they played folk-like rock with the sweetest temper. They pounded their pianos and strummed their guitars like modest but passionate local pub regulars. They released songs called "Happy in Love" and "Mother Make Me Golden". Vocalist Ian Metzger sung about awkward, oddly sweet relationships, a yearning for childhood innocence and even Thunder Cats. Yet it was all so remarkable - the accessibility, the nimble personality and the bittersweet ambiance - that it was almost like the band didn't even have to try to appear normal. They were just one of us. And that's why we could connect so strongly to the album.
But Dear and the Headlights are actually not a simple band. The themes on Heavy Hooves stretched, sometimes obscurely, to very specific experiences ("Skinned Knees & Gapped Teeth") or to vague ideas ("Oh No!"). The melodies and hooks were never regurgitated or at stock price. Layered guitars and pianos built dignified structures. Metzger's timbre, the band's shiniest star, is a mid-range scruff that is uniquely down-to-earth. For the band's newest, Drunk Like Bible Times, they rehash these specialties but typically so.
The approachable folk rock comes inherently, this we get. "I'm Not Crying, You're Not Crying, Are You?", the opener on Bible Times, rolls into a stepping melody and a familiar technique of chorus-building. Heavy Hooves guitar tones and riffs that were decidedly Midwestern are back for the trademark. Supposing because it's already known what to expect from Dear and the Headlights, the album in majority is predictable. "Talk About" could be exchanged for any song on Heavy Hooves. The stomping keys and then vocal recluse on "Try" aren't as special as they were the first time around on similar kin, "Mother Make Me Golden". Metzgers' vocals are more refined, focusing less on the raw yelps and out-of-tune highlights, a downside to the album's production. Tracks like "Carl Solomon Blues" enact an edgy new swagger, but it's not enough to keep the album as free flowing as their last.
The grandest moment for Dear and the Headlights though is the transformed and multi-attituded ender, "I Know". Moody, eerie and loose in the beginning and then mutating into an explosive clapping and celebratory sing-along, it's a coin of how Dear and the Headlights can progress and expand. While the whole of Bible Times felt aimed for a second version of Heavy Hooves (and just ended up less personable), it's not like the talent or connection isn't there; it just had mighty shoes to fill.
I downloaded the leaked copy sunday (I know im a bastard) but I LOVED it and went out and bought it today. DLBT is catchier and sticks with you more, but SSHH takes awhile to grab you and when it does....it does (well in my opinion). Both albums are damn good, I say if you want something more upbeat go with this album and if you want something mellower go with Small Steps, Heavy Hooves. Also I can not wait to see them with Forgive Durden and Steel Train.
I haven't heard the whole album, just a few songs, so I won't slam you totally, but 75%? Really? This band is just too innovative, too creative, too heartfelt and catchy, to be a 75%. It's all relative... maybe if this was a Pitchfork review I could understand it. But this is absolutepunk. Panic at the Disco! gets 85, you know? The Starting Line probably does too. This band deserves more credit and I honestly believe you need to rethink this review of the record; it's not poorly written but I just feel like you're unfairly penalizing the band.
When I finish listening to the entire CD and not just a few songs, this may be way more scathing.