Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Album Review: Civil War by Dillinger Four

On the 28th of April something very exciting is happening at The Dome in Tufnell Park - Dillinger Four are playing a very, very rare UK show, popping to the UK on their way to play Groezrock Festival in Belgium. I'm very excited for this gig as Dillinger Four are a band I never expected to see and so I decided to go back and review one of my favourite D4 album - Civil War. Civil War came out in 2008 on Fat Wreck Chords and to date is the band's latest album.

The opening song on Civil War is A Jingle For The Product. Anyone who is unfamiliar with Dillinger Four's sound will soon fall in love with lead singer Erik Funk’s distinctive raspy vocals. The track is a mid-tempo song about remembering all of the battles you tried to fight when you were younger and the frustrations of things not going quite to plan. Up next comes Contemplate This On The Tree Of Woes. The dual guitars in this are the highlight of a song about fighting to make a change. I like how one chugs along whilst the other throws in some nice melodic chords. The tempo of the song is good and fills me with energy and I love how they change the melody for the lines "They Can Cover Their Ears, But We Won't Stop Screaming!" That's the big line in the song that will really get a crowd shouting loudly. Parishiltonisametaphor begins with a piano intro reminiscent of something from an old speakeasy bar before some big guitars explode the song into life. A much harder and gruffer vocal is provided from bass player Patrick Costello. Costello's vocals are much more aggressive than Funk's as he sings a song about the birth of the non-celebrity - those celebrities who have become famous just for having rich parents rather than for having any actual talents. It's a sad and depressing part of our modern culture that we celebrate someone because they are related to someone with a lot of pennies. The fourth song, Gainesville, is my favourite on the record, if not one of my favourites of all time. Because of the lyrics "And It Feels Like Summer In October, And I Hope This Day Is Never Over" Gainesville has become the anthem for The Fest, which happens every year in late October, but for me it's so much more than that. It's an uplifting song about not wasting your life waiting for things to happen and instead going out and getting them yourself. This is summed up perfectly in the bridge of the song as Funk sings "Time Was Wasted, We're Moving Way Too Slow, Lets Go Before We're Old, Time Doesn't Wait For Me". This is a fantastic sing-a-long, fist-in-the-air song that I really can't wait to hear live.

Ode To The North American Snake Oil Distributor always reminds me of Bad Religion during the short guitar introduction. On this track Funk sings about things not always being black and white and that sometimes there is a grey area. The line "How Can You Judge What You Don't Understand" is one that stands out in particular. Like Gainesville, this is a positive and uplifting feeling song. The sixth song is Minimum Wage Is A Gateway Drug and is about it being okay to do a minimum wage job and how having the high-powered, big-money job isn't for everyone. Vocally the song is very rough and sometimes you have to listen quite closely to make out the lyrics in the verses but I like this. It's punk rock, it doesn't have to be perfect! The chorus, however, is extremely clear and simple: shouting "This American Me!" over and over. Next song The Classical Arrangement starts very slowly with some guitar feedback and Funks carefully delivered vocals. Eventually the tempo of the song does pick up for one final verse. I enjoyed how long it takes for the tempo to pick up, it takes so long it makes the listener think it's not actually coming but when it does it's really worth the wait. The Classical Arrangement is a song about religion and not judging people because of their faith or lack of faith. This is something I can really relate to. It's fantastic that Dillinger Four have written such a song, like the lyrics says "And We Are Only Tiny Droplets In The Ocean". By this they mean we don't know whether there is or isn't a higher power somewhere so we might as well all get on with each other in the meantime. Americaspremierfaithbasedinitative wastes no time in getting going with Funk’s vocals hitting you straight away. The track is about coming together and fighting for what you believe in. The song has much more of a pop punk feel to it than anything else on Civil War, but this is by no means a terrible thing. Sometimes it's good to have some big hooks!

The ninth song on the Civil War is called The Art of Whore. After the more upbeat feel of Americaspremierfaithbasedinitative The Art Of Whore goes back to a more serious and mature sound. Funk's vocals are delivered quickly and with a lot of intent and little time is wasted throughout the song with the approach firmly in the world of less-is-more. Nothing too fancy, just get the job done. That is until the end of the song when it goes into a small breakdown before a final big sing-a-long. Up next is a slower and softer song titled Fruity Pebbles. It's a gentle plodder of a track with much cleaner vocals than anything else one album, this is probably the most accessible song of the whole Dillinger Four back catalogue. It's a song dedicated to a fallen friend with some particularly poignant lyrics at the end of the song - "Cause Tonight I Guess I'm Drinking Alone, And Y'Know I'd Like To Think, That Then Again We'll Share A Drink, I Just Got To Know It Won't Be Tonight, But Today I'm Drinking Alone, Yeah Today I'm Not Singing Alone, I Know I'm Never Singing Alone". The pace is then picked up for a pounding song titled A Pyre Laid For Image And Frame. Again Erik Funk shows that every word sang is meant by adding a whole lot of attitude to every line. The song is about learning to let go of impossible dreams and discovering that life could be better without them. There seems to be a lot more emotion in Funk’s vocals during this song, which really adds to the track. The penultimate song on Civil War is named Like Eye Contact In An Elevator and it is the first time on the record that Funk and Costello share vocal duties, which I absolutely love. Having multiple vocalists on a song always adds a lot of energy to it. The song is about being stuck in a boring conversation and not being able to get out of it (we've all been there). I can't think of any songs that have tackled this subject, very creative songwriting. Like Eye Contact In An Elevator also features the first guitar solo on Civil War, adding something else to their style. The final song on the album is Clown Cars On Cinder Blocks. The track begins with just guitars and vocals (reminding me of the Foo Fighters) before slowly building into one last punk rock banger. It's a fast-paced track with plenty of sing-a-long moments, including a big chorus. This final track is another of the more pop infused songs on Civil War and is a brilliantly uplifting way to finish.

If Civil War is the last full-length album that Dillinger Four release then it is certainly a fantastic record to complete a fine body of work. Gosh I can't wait to hear some of these songs live and in person!

Stream and download Civil War here: https://dillingerfour.bandcamp.com/

Like Dillinger Four here: https://www.facebook.com/Dillinger4/