Thursday, April 26, 2018
Album Review :: DMA’S - For Now
April 27 2018 (Infectious)
Words: Kieran O'Brien
With only so many notes on the fretboard and only so many chords from which to choose from, it is almost inescapable that elements of emerging guitar bands’ sounds will be influenced by previously popular acts. In turn, the music press, sniffing out the slightest sonic resemblance, will gleefully label an upcoming act as ‘THE NEW *insert culturally significant band here*. This has certainly been true of Sydney’s DMA’s, who are the latest in a long line of indie bands to be compared to arguably the most culturally significant band of the last 30 years, Oasis.
A quick glance and listen to the trio’s 2016 debut offering ‘Hills End’ and it’s easy to see why such comparisons have been made. Donned in Gallagher-esque sports gear and sunglasses on the front cover, the album is full of Britpop influenced choruses sung with a Liam-like snarl by frontman Tommy O’Dell. This week the Australian outfit release their second album ‘For Now’, and with it comes an opportunity to demonstrate that they can carve their own path rather than being laboured with the limited label of being a Britpop throwback. Unfortunately, ‘For Now’, produced by The Presets’ Kim Moyes, runs over already trodden ground without really offering anything new.
The album opens with the title track and is actually a very promising start to the record. A pulsing and infectious bassline punches through swirling guitars and O’Dell’s siren-like vocal; there is more than a hint of The Charlatans here but there’s certainly enough intensity and dynamism to be optimistic about what is to come on the rest of the album (overuse of record). By the time the next three tracks have finished, however, there is an increasing sense that this album could have been fashioned by any one of the countless bands that emerged after Britpop’s initial explosion into British consciousness.
‘Dawning’ is melodic enough but features the sort of laborious rhyming ("in the dawning, you will wait for, for her warning, she was warning, yeah") that is more likely to initiate a cringe than a nod of approval. ‘Time Money’ and ‘In the Air’ again demonstrate the band’s capability to write catchy Britpop influenced melodies but are somewhat middle paced without really going anywhere. ‘The End’ is particularly culpable of meandering and is a pretty dreary effort for an act tipped as one of the most exciting young bands around at the moment.
To DMA’s credit, the second half of the record does have moments where the promise that led to comparisons with Britpop’s biggest bands shines through. ‘Break Me’ thumps with an infectious groove and a soaring chorus, and ‘Health’ is an intimate and emotive three-minute ballad that demonstrates the very best of O’Dell as a vocalist.
Nevertheless, by the time ‘Emily Whyte’ closes out the record it is quite apparent that there is very little here that hasn’t been covered by hundreds of bands throughout the 90s and 00s already. Of course, it would be foolish to suggest that even the biggest acts of their generation weren’t heavily influenced by what came before. Indeed, Britpop’s biggest darlings Oasis took more than their fair share from the 60s and 70s, even running up hefty plagiarism lawsuit bills. The great thing about early Oasis, though, was that despite their obvious inspirations they managed to define a moment in time so well. Songs like ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ and ‘Supersonic’ capture perfectly that post-Thatcher mood of ‘we have no jobs or money so let’s go out and make the most of it’, which resonated with so many on a massively broad scale. Outside of Britpop, David Bowie’s ‘Low’ or Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Whatever People Say I Am…’ achieve similar success in capturing, whether it be sonically or lyrically, the world that they were living in at that moment in time. What all these albums have in common is that they spawned hundreds of acts subsequently trying to capture a sound in a similar way but ultimately sounding like imitators. On ‘For Now’ the DMA’s unfortunately fall into this category.
Perhaps it is slightly unfair to compare the DMA’s to a band who has achieved the commercial and critical success that Oasis have. Despite this, a comparison is useful in articulating exactly why ‘For Now’ misses the mark. Whereas Britpop at its best provided an optimistic and often humorous account of the state of Britain in the 1990s, ‘For Now’ often sounds like the band have plucked an assortment of used lyrics out of a hat and placed them arbitrarily within songs. What makes this more disappointing still is that the band obviously have talent; their cover of Cher’s ‘Believe’ when guests on Australian radio show ‘Triple J’ is fantastic (seriously, go and watch it on YouTube immediately if you haven’t seen it), but they haven’t quite managed to harness that talent to create something unique here. If DMA’s could put a new twist on their British influences on future offerings then they are certainly capable of delivering an exciting, forward thinking record.