As the press release for Strange Storm indicates, the album “explores (various) themes,” political themes, to be exact, and as we all know, this can be somewhat of a froggy situation. Music is obviously not discursive, in other words, it’s physical, so when I hear these claims of thematic treatment in it I typically get this sandpaper look in my eyes, just enough to feel sorry for the person, and then forget what I saw. Is the singer just going to be using these big, broad issues that everybody knows SOMETHING about, but nobody necessarily knows THAT MUCH about, as an attempted ingratiation?
Plus, great punk rock like the dissenting “Combat Rock” by Sleater-Kinney and Green Day’s “Holiday” don’t “explore themes” of political corruption, they sledgehammer that sh** to death — at least to the point of a derived, temporary death in the mind of the listener. Now, nowhere do the DJB claim to be punk, to be clear, and discounting some moments of some pretty guttural intonations of guitar sound they do remain pretty docile. They do, however, have way more “rhythm” than any punk band is really functionally allowed to, and they use it well, although the real feather in their cap here is eclectic song variety.
“Walking in the Footsteps” is definitely not terrific, and what’s more it invites “the lord” into the lyrical discussion which almost made me bid it adieu entirely, but gleaned from a distance with the knowledge of the rest of the album, it does work, for its very contrast. This is because we get promptly into the rocking, and it does pay off, in the form of brisk and frenetic, horn-driven “Strange Storm,” and the slow but awesomely funky “All around Us,” with the incessant chorus: “War is all around us.”
I guess you wouldn’t know it from the album’s cover or art, but the Darrin James Band is a Detroit act, which certainly makes their insistence upon calamity comment a little more understandable. Anyway, in my mind as I get to track four “Slow Trickle or the Rising Tide,” with the knowledge of the band’s background in mind, I’m already picturing this crazy urban jungle, so it’s possible that the song gains appeal on account of this. But it’s crazy how they do manage to make viable, rhythmic urban music for 2016 without the use of a computer at all — there’s a treated, twisted trumpet making a kind of calm caterwaul, if that’s possible, throughout the number, and but it comes in and out, and it’s the coming and going of this crazy call of the wild that gives this track its zest.
If there were any more tracks like “Dangerous Kind” then all the preachy scrutiny of people’s behavior would get really monotonous, but we get a great taste of Detroit metal with “You Never Know,” a deliberate, evil-sounding blues dirge hearkening of Ted Nugent. So this band is angry after all! Probably not quite angry enough, considering their subject matter of widespread combat and malady, but definitely talented. What’s more, this album leaves the listener wanting more, and I’ll be curious what artistic direction they go in from here, with all the seasoned instrumental craftsmanship at hand.