So Many Dynamos
When I Explode
alvador Dali once said that those who do not want to imitate anything produce nothing. If we don the shellac for a moment and assume that to be true, then So Many Dynamos have produced plenty on their debut album. The somewhat brief When I Explode was mixed by former Dismemberment Plan guitarist Jason Caddell, and the legacy of his band will clearly live on, for many, in the angular downstrokes and staggered delivery of these palindromic Midwesterners.
The album commences with the energetic one-two of “Bed of Nails” and “The Pros of Being a Con Artist,” two flurrying blends of exploding guitar noise and structured melody that ebb and flow between hefty servings of self-depreciation from vocalist Ryan Ballew, who has since left the band: “When I explode please make an outline / Where my feet once stood strong / And spread my ashes / In this plastic ashtray where my kind belongs.” The “dirty water” from Hot Hot Heat’s “Bandages” returns on the latter of the two openers—a song that will no doubt garner comparisons to tracks from the Dismemberment Plan’s seminal “Emergency and I,” and yet remains indubitably grand in its own right. “The Pros…” is a three-minute urban drama of Rapturous clamour and swaggering bravado that, if performed, would take place under powerlines sagging with a collective of shitting and twittering laser-beaked birds. Its finale is one of the finest moments on “When I Explode:” the resolute repetition of “Drag your skeletons from the closet / And bury them under the driveway / No more swimming in dirty water” surges above a simple and effective backing vocal that climaxes with “hit the ground, hit the ground.” Cue exhalation.
“Let’s Laugh About it Later,” lingers leagues behind its two foregoing siblings, its hands in its pockets. The lyrics smack of teen-angst and, unless it is a deliberate attempt at bathos, an overused simile is wedged between a relatively uninteresting opening series of lines: “Let’s get stupid drunk on the roof of an abandoned building / At four-thirty in the afternoon / Sit in lawnchairs and stare at the people / They all look like ants / I swear that I can see your house from here.” Unfortunately, Ballew’s emo-tinged whine can often comes across as far more Simple than Dismemberment. So Many Dynamos are far better than that song indicates, and they immediately redeem themselves with the danceable menace of “Heat/Humidity,” a track that bulges with short bursts of sludgy guitar, serrated hooks, relentless handclaps, and clattering cymbals. It is the undeniable highpoint of the debut. One minute and thirty-nine seconds through, one could be stuck in the midst of the aforementioned Canadians’ “Make Up the Breakdown” and be blissfully unaware.
Unfortunately, the album rarely again reaches the standard set during the majority of its first half. That said, it does manage to finish quite convincingly with the swollen chaos of “Windows Facing Walls,” and there is still time for some well-wrought sarcasm on the penultimate closer, “Seriously Now,” where “condescending is so in…” and “predicability is the new black.” Regardless of whether or not Salvador Dali was completely accurate with his theory on imitation, So Many Dynamos have, while practically displaying their influences on fluorescent banners, fashioned a debut full-length that is not without its share of peaks—it is just a pity that the accompanying troughs are sometimes a tad too deep. Still, it is an encouraging half hour and, having just commenced an extensive forty-eight state tour, the increased exposure cannot do them any harm.
Reviewed by: Ben Wilson
Reviewed on: 2005-06-03