The Kick and the Snare
aybe it's their name. Maybe the people who like the word "deathray" don't like this kind of music. And who are those people? The people who know every line ever spoken by a Bond villain? There's the bad play on words to, with the reference to the Kinks' songwriter. Who are the people who like that? Apparently vocalist and guitarist John Dufilho. I assume.
Regardless of the name, there has to be some reason the DRD (as they puzzlingly go by) haven't gained some success and some critical attention. The group's new album, The Kick and the Snare, has as high a listenability quotient as any record I've heard this year. Every song smacks you with at least one memorable hook, and the sound throughout screams rock party.
Or maybe it doesn't scream it. Maybe the band's too restrained and subtle. The DRD might not rock enough to get the rockers and doesn't shine enough for the poppers. While pop-punk has its share of haters, at least it’s a genre that moves albums. Indie-pop-garage-rock doesn't really have a large base. I think it might just be me, and possibly that dude from the Von Bondies who doesn't scuffle with critical darlings.
The ability to stand on the middle ground serves as the Davies' biggest strength. They've definitely been listening to the retro-garage acts (especially for numbers like "Clock in Now"), but they never appropriate that sound. Instead they blend it in with their poppier British invasion sounds. The comparison to the Kinks is easy, but a little inaccurate—despite the band name, they more closely follow a lineage from The Who, most notably on the way they blend the piano into bombastic rock numbers, Nicky Hopkins-style.
Yet they don't sustain the bombast (nor should they, given the success they have with this sound). Rather than top-down driving music, it's beer and barbecue music. Opening track "The Fall Fashions" should be a summer smash thanks to its memorable riff and expansive, horns-aided sound. That bright sound marks a shift from DRD's last album; Midnight at the Black Nail Polish Factory, which sounded almost like (to not waste a perfect analogy) its own title.
"Plan to Stay Awake" could be a midnight proclamation, but it's way too groovy. The words come too fast and the verse's music has too much going on (but simply) and the chorus has way too good an '80s jangle. Maybe Dufliho and company just had too much coffee when putting their plan into action.
Okay, so they're not garage, punk, pop, rock, day, or night. They just could be soul, and "I'll Sing a Sweeter Song Tomorrow" starts off with a nod to that "Be My Baby" drum intro (minus the Spectorian production). Oh, wait ... those guitars aren't soul. And neither is the vocal sneer that follows on "A Calendar Crime," which doesn't anticipate the '60s guitars and melody that bloom in the chorus.
Here's what we've got: the band has a lousy name, no niche, no generic steadiness, mixes up their fun with the dark side, and is influenced by all the best pop and rock of the last 40 years. No wonder no one knows who they are.
And no wonder their songs are so good.