The Dimes | Silent Generation (Pet Marmoset)

cd_dimes.jpgIt’s like singer Johnny Clay is looking at a history book, but acting like he’s just found a stack of pictures of his ex-girlfriend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe I’m buying into the backlash, but beautiful, emotive, melancholy indie rock just seems so boring. Now that there’s a fleet of poetic youngsters with argyle sweaters and acoustic guitars, so many indie pop records sound formulaic. There’s the mostly upbeat instrumentals, the droll vocals that occasionally get shouted, and then there’s the lyrics. Vaguely metaphoric, but mostly frank and deeply emotional.

So it should be refreshing that The Dimes—who play beautiful, emotive, melancholy indie rock—take a different approach to their lyrics, right? Not entirely.

The lyrics are what set this album apart from others like it. While the music isn’t entirely unique, it is extremely well done. The instrumentals are fantastic. Acoustic and electric guitars intertwine to make an angular, yet heavily organic sound. Occasional percussive flare come sin at just the right times to make the songs almost infinitely more catchy. A sinister combination of handclaps and high-pitched "Do do do doooo" vocals has lodged the album’s opener "Jersey Kid" firmly in my subconscious.

But the problem with it being stuck in my head is that I don’t quite know what it’s about. I can take the literal approach, that it’s about a young guy from New Jersey getting the death penalty, but this is indie rock, so there has to be a deeper meaning. That’s what all the other indie bands would do.

But maybe The Dimes aren’t making metaphors. Maybe all of the 13 tracks on Silent Generation are ballads loosely based in reality or history. I’m inclined to believe that since I can’t find any other meaning in these lyrics. I’m not poetically dense, but either this band is great at hiding meanings or they’re way more straightforward than almost all of their musical peers.

Songs about Communists rioting in 1930s Manhattan and 19th Century Texas Revolution battles don’t quite reach for political statements. Instead, they sound sad and romantic. It’s like singer Johnny Clay is looking at a history book, but acting like he’s just found a stack of pictures of his ex-girlfriend.

At first, the abstract lyrics turned me off. I thought they sounded pretentious, like if the band decided to be different by filling the gaps between beautiful harmonies with abstruse lyrics in hopes of earning accolades akin to those given to lyrically recondite popsters The Decemberists.

But after a few listens, the melodies overtook me. Who cares what the words mean, the rises and falls of Clay’s vocals say enough. So, while the emotions and style might put The Dimes in the latest wave of literary indie rockers, the approach and musical excellence give them just a little boost when it comes to bands written off by bitter backlashers like myself. A- | Gabe Bullard

RIYL: The Decemberists, The Long Winters, The Shins, Death Cab for Cutie

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