Something hit me about five days ago reading the new Jorma Kaukonen book. God da**. Rock stars’ lives just aren’t that INTERESTING.
But just on the hypothetical that there WERE any derived value of doing interviews with bands, I could see some really enchanting diatribe emanating from San Francisco’s The Dodos, who have been composed solely of guitarist/vocalist Meric Long and Logan Kroeber since their genesis in 2006. They were at some party where the beer ran out, got to find they had the same music taste, spent the night tripping in a field looking at fireflies, exchanging favorite songs on T. Rex’s Electric Warrior and herpes horror stories, and neither one of them forgot the special way they felt that night.
Like many people, I admittedly was introduced to this band via Pitchfork in the ’00s and I must say ’08’s Visiter was certainly a grower – I found the singles “Walking” and “Fools” INFINITELY bland and grating which is an odd set of common negative attributes, obviously, in the first place, being exposed to them in the Whole Foods in Colorado where I worked at that time, my favorite songs to this day on that album probably being “Red and Purple”; “Joe’s Waltz” and “Paint the Rust” (truth be told there’s hardly a bad song on that album or this band’s entire catalogue). I scored the Time to Die CD for real cheap at a library sale, loved it, but always felt a little weird liking an album called Dodos – Time to Die. I DOWNLOADED, for cash value, Carrier, off of iTunes, in 2013, and burned it to CD, when that was still a thing, and that was a cinnamon-y, effervescent (sorry) soundtrack to that fall without any question, positioning Dodos as fall music for me even though I’ll always associate Visiter with spring (lately Long seems to have settled into this sort of monochromatic if still inspired and rich vocal timbre which just screams resignation, aching and excessive world experience, all things very equitable with fall).
2015’s Individ didn’t so much play as it did WHIP out of the speakers – it was like a bull whip of da** near impeccable indie pop, so I can see where the band might be pi**ed that they didn’t get more props for that album, because honestly the musicianship is still there, and even though yes it’s indie pop as it always has been with this band, and yes Carrier and Individ are both poppier than Visiter (though less poppy, ironically, than the sugary, Beirut-like Time to Die, with its delicate anthems like “Fables” et. al.)
In all honesty, the initial moments of Certainty Waves are so similar to my reverberating impressions of Individ that it DOES feel like a practical joke on critics who derided Individ as same-y, because same-y it really wasn’t – check textural guitar ballads like “Bastard,” the likes of which the band had really done nothing exactly up to that point. So I’m having a sort of moment here where I’m disappointed that this band STILL hasn’t added another member, like a synth or bass player or something, balanced against what is undoubtedly my fervent, toothy support for them, in the face of what I see as a slew of underrated albums since Visiter and probably some spiny, vacuous hatred for indie music itself and Pitchfork darlings this decade. Well, if all I am for liking Pitchfork music this decade is the Unabomber, I figure, that’s not that bad.
Everything about the first two tracks on this album indicates that Dodos have a certain metal itch they now want to scratch, whether it’s the Disturbed, System of a Down type vibe on “Forum” (without the LIKE level of feedback of those two bands, mind you), or Kroeber’s undeniable jones for working the tom heavy and hard on “IF,” a vaguely jazz garage-pop dirge with almost like a sort of pop polyrhythm, like GWAR covering Diana Ross & the Supremes (there’s even an interview with Long on Bandcamp which says he was surprised when listening to Visiter for the first time in eight years how much electric guitar there is on it). So yes, in case you haven’t already surmised as much from my account here, this album is… WEIRD. It’s very weird. “SW3” bespeaks more schizophrenia and darkness in a precocious, understated and almost ambient way, and
“Coughing” is riffy, grunge-influenced indie rock powered very much by Kroeber’s booming drums and… da**.. I dunno if it’s just me but I just can’t seem to get INTO this stuff this time around. It’s sort of like the two members are on two different planes, the drummer making all this boisterous noise and Long with that same sort of pretty-boy, ladies-man croon, like he still thinks he’s singing “Ashley” or “Precipitation.” On the upside, when Long sings the word “Coughing” it sort of sounds like “coffin,” and this is a band called the “dodos” when an album called “time to die.”
Back to business. “Center of” is pure identity-crisis rock at its finest, with a trippy harmonic part flanking the bridge between chorus and next verse, and a bunch of sort of aimless, quintessentially pristine acoustic guitar guiding the listener to nowhere at all except his or her own imagination. “Excess” is relatively virile, that is to say focused, and DEFINITE, as compared to its predecessors, and in the middle features this effect I’ve never heard the band used before, where the guitar sort of sounds like a chainsaw – I want to say I’ve heard it one other place in rock but not very often. Well, San Fran is the city that brought us Sly & the Family Stone, the first mainstream act in the WORLD to utilize the drum machine on a commercial studio cut (There’s a Riot Goin’ on, which preceded Can by one year). “Ono Fashion” is more regular crazy Dodos crap and… haha, what a song title. Oh these guys just kill me. But maybe they’re once again your bastards now once again.