“Power Pop” is a musical ghetto into which few bands would want to be relegated. It conjures up images of Beatle boots and paisley shirts, big record collections and precious little real-life experience. Most depressingly, it’s often about trying to meticulously recreate a sound instead of creating something fresh. Sometimes it’s difficult explaining the difference between the good, the bad, and the lame when it comes to this stuff, but to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart - I know it when I hear it.
The new High Dials album is definitely on the right side of the equation. Sure, it has its share of jangly guitars and sweet melodies. And “Uruguay” bows a little too reverentially towards the Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds, something that’s all but a requirement amongst indie-pop bands. But elsewhere these guys shake things up just enough to keep their songs from falling into the obvious traps. The album is sequenced very much like an LP, with the fast ones loaded on Side A. This includes “Teenage Love Made Me Insane,” a perfectly propulsive single from an era long-gone. Songwriter Trevor Anderson’s vocals are high in the mix, and cushioned with lots of dreamy reverb but there is some real bite to the performances. Drummer Max Herbert, in particular, comes to life on Side B, where the band stretches things out a bit (the lengthy coda on “Mysterio” sees him conjuring Keith Moon in his flailing).
In general, I imagine the group’s sound truly igniting in a live setting. Bands like these frequently blow me away when stumbled upon in a small, crowded club. For 30 minutes or so, they can convince you they are the greatest thing in the world. Then you play the CD you bought at the merch stand and realize it is nowhere near as powerful as the show you just witnessed. Happens all the time. But with Anthems for Doomed Youth , the High Dials have crafted an excellent collection of melodic songs with palpable energy and drive. To say that I can’t wait for the chance to see them live is the highest compliment I can offer (Rainbow Quartz International).