KOKO, London, UK - 21/11
Chuckles & Mr. Squeezy
Written by: PP on 16/08/2011 21:02:20
As many of you will undoubtedly know, dredg built their solid fan base through a special form of dreamy experimental rock that had a magical feeling of perfection to it on albums like "Leitmotif" and "El Cielo". Those albums were released in 1998 and 2002 respectively, and since then the band has all but abandoned its roots with a pop rock angle on "Catch Without Arms" in 2005 and on an avant-garde experimentalist pop approach on 2009's "The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion". In short, dredg have gone from being an ambient band with solid, catchy rock songs into a progressive one which appreciates minute detail more than accessible songs, so most of older dredg fans have since moved on, like the undersigned. Nonetheless, "Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy" presented an irresistible opportunity into checking out dredg circa 2011 to see what's brewing in their kitchen these days.
The verdict: not much, or not much of interest, anyway. The band continue to embed pop elements shamelessly to their music underneath a disguise of creativity and avant-garde instrumentation, but the veil of experimentalism isn't enough to fool this scribe into falling head over heels over the band's modern sound. "Another Tribe", the album opener, embodies this problem perfectly, as it's beat - yes, it's more of a beat than a riff - sounds like it was sampled from Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise", though modified slightly, of course. "Upon Returning" has a similarly annoying guitar lead that makes you think of popular mainstream music rather than the artistic stuff dredg is supposed to represent - or used to represent in the past anyway. That said, a song like "The Tent" demonstrates that vocalist Gavin is still an amazing singer with an ability to woo the listener into his ambient and dreamy pop melodies if one is to ignore the frankly boring instrumental landscape of the album.
While one has to appreciate the band's creative usage of electronics to and samples to make their soundscape richer, when it inevitably leads the listener thinking about hip-hop 'artists' instead of a rock band, you're definitely on the wrong track. And you know what? That's not just me slavishly following my rock religion and hacking down on anything outside of the box, because I found Minus The Bear's "Omni" a pretty good release, which uses similar elements to craft a danceable and sexy overall sound. Dredg, on the other hand, simply don't have the same appeal in the songs on this record, which is also evident in the less-than-favorable critical reception this record has received overall. Maybe it's the fact that the majority of the songs are driven by electronic beats rather than progressive exploration of ambience through guitars that does it, but "Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy" has mostly one effect on this writer: putting me to sleep.
Download: The Tent, The Ornament
For the fans of: Minus The Bear, ambient hip hop/electronica
Release date 03.05.2011