New directions in music add power to release
Album: The Glow
Reviewer: Eddie Russell
The long-awaited The Glow delicately balances dance tracks (Life is a Game of Changing), pop anthems (Criminals), and sentimental ballads (Learning Alive) with their signature jangly rock tunes (Hello Girlfriend).
The consistency of the album is in the melodies – whether it’s wrapped in neon or forged in heartbreak, the quality is undeniable.
The new electronica-inspired songs are refreshing and exciting. The band builds on new strengths with the help of legendary producer Stuart Price, who has worked with the likes of New Order, The Killers and Madonna.
The album begins with the swirling Madchester-style haze Never Before, a song so reminiscent of the Happy Monday’s you think it would be a staple at the Hacienda.
Life is a Game of Changing is the furthest departure from the quintessential DMA’s sound – pulsating beats and lapping synthesisers dominate the space – and it’s an absolute delight. Price’s fingerprints are all over this one, and the mixing is top notch.
However, there are elements of overproduction in some of the pop-orientated tracks, which can be cringeworthy. The glitchy vocal collage in Criminals stains the song, which is otherwise very catchy. The use of a vocoder on Cobracaine is also unnecessary and grating, given singer Tommy O’Dell’s vocal ability.
O’Dell’s vocals are a highlight. His emotional conviction gives the songs a stirring, poignant touch that creates a connection between listener and band. His dreamy delivery adapts well to the electronic tracks, but it tends to sound slightly buried on these.
With the more organic rock songs, like Silver, a shimmery guitar anthem, and Hello Girlfriend, a feel-good indie number, O’Dell comes into his own.
Ballads Learning Alive and Appointment are adequate tracks, but lack some of the variety and depth that we’ve come to expect after DMA’s’ last record, For Now.
Appointment is one of the only guitar-centric songs on the album, and it builds into a flurrying crescendo. Learning Alive uses the same formula, but with slightly broader instrumentation.
Some of the strongest tunes on the album are also the most underrated ones.
The mysterious aesthetic of Strangers, with its seductive riffs and clean chords, gives off an intoxicating intrigue that can only be described as a streetlight shining through a foggy night.
Round and Around is a stomping number that effortlessly slips between nonchalant airiness and grungy angst. Matt Mason thrives on lead guitar here, and O’Dell has a Liam Gallagher-esque snarl to his delivery; indeed, the gritty chorus strongly resembles Oasis’ later work.
Lyrically, The Glow deals with the hardships of change and attempts to grow from these experiences.
There’s plenty of darkness underneath the surface: Cobracaine is about a group of teenagers dying in a car crash and Hello Girlfriend is inspired by waking from a coma. However, there’s always a silver lining and time to heal and move forward, as displayed in Silver.
The by-products of this process are heard throughout the album, with vulnerability in Learning Alive (“never been so scared to be open”), scepticism in Strangers (“I don’t believe in strangers”) and frustration in The Glow (“I’m sick and tired of chasing the glow”).
There are many highlights on this album, and while the newfound sonic exploration serves a treat, Hello Girlfriend is a jubilant and vibrant song that many fans will be pleased to hear after it was extensively played in DMA’s live setlist. The title track, The Glow, also deserves an honourable mention – it bridges the two distinctive sounds, with a guitar-driven song given an electric overcoat.
For those concerned DMA’s have abandoned their indie rock roots, fear not: The Glow has managed to retain old sounds and create new ones.