Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review : Dr Manhattan : Jam Dreams

This is not Dr Manhattan's self-titled album. Yeah, maybe a couple of tracks might resemble the post-chaotic, melodically dissonant pieces of what they started with. But it’s a surface only resemblance. What they’ve done with an album that may not have the impact of a sonically cohesive whole, is fill it with songs that destroy on a song to song basis. This is definitely a collection of songs that were possibly put together on the road, as they tour feverishly, and this is definitely maybe a collection of songs meant to really throw off their former record label (ask Gatsby’s American Dream about that one - see their last, and probably best, album). Regardless of the reasoning, what they’ve crafted is an album way more all over the place than their first effort - and this is in no way a bad thing.

Where their first album (and pardon the constant comparison, but I’m hard pressed to find something that even remotely resembles what they are musically right now) was tonally similar song to song, with the vocals a little lower in the mix and shrouded in fuzz and distortion, and the chaos turned to 11, Jam Dreams goes the opposite direction at almost every chance it gets. The vocals are higher up, almost to the point of dominance, and each instrument and the role they play in each song is much more clearly defined. Not to say the chaos isn’t there, it’s simply more controlled and concise. The points in the album where it’s let loose give it that much more of an impact, as what we’re dealing with are a series of quieter (but no less intense) songs punctuated by raucous, danceable, sing-able jams.

The opener “Electraumatized,“ gives you a brief re-introduction to the band, throwing off some of the vibe put out from the first record. But at the end of the song, that’s almost where any connection between new and old ceases to exist. Yeah, there are some strong links to what came before - see “Man With A Women’s Chest,” for the best example - but as a whole, we’ve got an entirely different beast. Less lyrically dense, but just as clever, Dr Manhattan craft some surf rock, groove infused post-punk gems in the form of “Mailman” and “Biscuits and Groovy,” (It’s safe to say that those songs are the Dr Manhattan Litmus Test. If you can’t hang, then, dude, it’s time to bail) a Hip-Hop infused jam (“Misses Steward”), and some obviously obvious “love” songs (and a couple of angry not so “love“ songs, too). What’s fascinating is that you can hear the craftsmanship and a little bit of the guiding hand that Chris Conley (of Saves The Day) seems to have provided in producing the album. There’s a steadiness that wasn’t as present before, and I think that they’re all the better for. In what might be strange but logical contrast, they seem to have accepted the fact that they might be the weirdest dudes I’ve ever met or seen perform, and more comfortably melded it with what they were doing, both in recording this album and in their live show.

And that’s the beauty of this album. I’ve seen this band play 4 times now, in 4 very different places (a real venue, a burrito place, a small theatre, and a basement) and each time was a unique, singular, but decisively group oriented experience. To know and appreciate Dr Manhattan, seeing them live is a necessity. With Jam Dreams, they’ve come much closer to reproducing their inherent silliness and awesomeness so present in a live setting, and that’s a rare thing these days. Usually the goal is to make the live show live up to the over-produced, multi-layered, auto-tuned monstrosities of the scene’s most recent releases. Not for Dr Manhattan. It’s all about making some Jam Dreams come true.

This album is out on Cassette Deck August 18th, 2009.

>>Visit our Locals page to see exclusive photos and video stream from last nights' Dr Manhattan Basement Show in New Brunswick, NJ.

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Contributing Editor: Jared Bowers
I'm into indie, rock, experimental, hardcore and post-hardcore.
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