I first discovered BlackDots last year when I was checking out bands I've never heard of who were playing Fest. BlackDots were a real stand out. They're a four piece band from Denver, Colorado, who have been going since 2010. In January the band put out their first release since 2012's Again & Again LP. The new eight track album is titled Everything Has Gotta Change. This being the first release since I discovered BlackDots, I was very keen to give it a spin.
Everything Has Gotta Change begins with the song I'm Already Gone. If you're new to the BlackDots sound then I think the best way to describe them is as a cross between The Loved Ones, Red City Radio and Elway. Melodic gruff punk with honest, heart on your sleeve sing-alongs. Something I loved about this song from the outset was the three part vocal assault from John Brandow (guitar/vocals), Wade Henderson (guitar/vocals) and April Froschheuser (bass/vocals). Gang vocals are ace. I'm Already Gone is an explosive song about realising that you're not invested in a relationship before it's ended and coming to terms with that. Like Oceans is up next. Starting out slowly with what seems like a jam session between the band, before properly launching into the song was a great way of building the song up. As soon as the vocals come in the song has you ready to sing along with the band and this feeling continues throughout the track. The vocals flick brilliantly between melodic and urgent giving the song a bit of unpredictability, not allowing you to settle comfortably into the track as you're not sure what's coming next. The high intensity of the track, and in particularly the extended outro, leaves you pretty breathless but also yearning for more!
The third track on the album is the wonderfully titled I Knew It! I'm Surrounded By Assholes. This track was a real stand out on my first listen of Everything Has Gotta Change. It's about trying to be the better person whilst feeling like you're surrounded by bad eggs. I particularly enjoyed the high tempo in which the track is played, this really helps the overall feeling of anger and spite that the song portrays. The raspiness in the vocals also add to this. I love when a band can give off an aura of being really pissed off whilst retaining melody and hooks. The following track is another that's wonderfully titled, What's Up With This Getting Old Thing?. This track allows BlackDots newest member April Froschheuser to take lead vocals, adding another dimension to the band's sound. The song is refreshing take on the topic of getting older as it actually looks at the positives of ageing. It talks about things you can't do when you're younger and there's a great hook where the band sing "I'm not afraid of getting old." The song, surprisingly, has me thinking of Bad Religion at times due to the fantastic harmonies that occur towards the end of the song. What a tune.
Would You Say I Have A Plethora? is the title of the fifth song. BlackDots slow things down slightly here, giving it that lovely anthemic sound. This is welcome after the fast and frantic first half of the album. Allowing Froschheuser's bass to take the lead in the opening verse really gives the song a real warmth that I hadn't realised I wanted until I got it. This then leads nicely into the chorus where all three singers share vocals, giving the song such an epic feel. It also really gets you wanting to sing along and gives you a feeling of inclusiveness. That's always a wonderful feeling to get from a song. I really loved the moment when the music dropped out and we were treated to a beautiful acapella moment before the song built back up to its big finale. Opa is the shortest track on the album at just over 90 seconds long. As you might imagine from a short punk rock song, it's an explosive one. Musically it's quite heavy compared to the rest of the album and features some great "chugga-chugga" guitars that really drive the song forward. The tempo in which the vocals are delivered gives the song a real energy that I found myself getting swept away with. BlackDots manage to pack so much into this short song and it's a really good time.
The penultimate song is named Awkward Is My Middle Name. This mid-tempo track has a folky twinge to it that gives BlackDots yet another string to their bow. Starting out with a fine lead guitar part before the lines "convince myself I'm not a sucker no, you don't have to save me" kick the song off properly. There's a more restrained feel to the song, especially with the music. There are times when it feels like the song really wants to go up a gear but BlackDots hold back, adding to the emotion of the song. The eighth and final song is Sweep The Leg. The extended introduction gives the song a huge final song feeling that eventually leads into quite a surprising sounding verse, if I'm honest. There's a poppiness to it that hasn't really been displayed throughout the rest of the album. I adored it though – more strings added to that impressive BlackDots bow. When we get to the chorus we're greeted with the BlackDots we've become accustomed to here, gruff vocals and huge harmonies. Sweep The Leg is about standing for what you believe in no matter what the consequences might be. Interestingly the song only has the one verse and one chorus before the most ridiculous guitar solo comes in to play us out and finish both the song and Everything Has Gotta Change.
There are many bands in the USA, and around the world, playing gruff punk rock. I love it but it's always a special treat when a band finds a way to give it a fresh feeling. That's exactly what BlackDots managed to achieve on Everything Has Gotta Change. If you like the bands I mentioned at the beginning of this album, then you're going to love this.
Stream and download Everything Has Gotta Change here: https://blackdots.bandcamp.com/album/everything-has-gotta-change
Like BlackDots here: https://www.facebook.com/blackdotrock/
This review was written by Colin Clark.