Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Album Review: Regulars by Dead Bars

Seattle's Dead Bars released my album of the year in 2017 when they unleashed Dream Gig on the world. Those eight songs still get a regular spin on my turntable. Two short years later Dead Bar are set to release a brand new album on May 3rd. Titled Regulars, the album is being released by A-F Records alongside All In Vinyl, Eager Beaver Records and No Reason Records. After loving Dream Gig so much I had big expectations for Regulars.

Regulars begins with the second single Dead Bars released before the album came out, Freaks. This short song quickly reminded me why I loved Dream Gig so much. It's nothing overcomplicated – simple guitar riffs, simple drum beat and lead singer John Maiello's distinct, gravelly vocal telling a story of feeling like you don't belong and embracing that feeling. It's a cathartic song that will get a massive sing-along. Freaks is followed by the first single released to promote the album. Titled I'm A Regular, we hear a different side of Dead Bars that we've not really heard before. It's great to hear the band switch things up a bit, showing they're not one trick ponies. Interestingly it's kind of a follow up but also the same, an opposite of Freaks – if that makes any sense? It's another cathartic song, only this time it's about being different, it's about being down on yourself for being like everyone else. I think the point that Dead Bars are making is that it doesn't matter what type of person you are, you will have all kind of feelings and insecurities.

Pink Drink starts out in quite an energetic fashion with a big verse where Maiello really stretches his vocals chords. After that big first half of the song, the band really slow things down and the track gets quite sombre to finish things up. It builds but still feels pretty sad. Pink Drink is about getting away from brown liquor and replacing it with a pink drink (whatever that might be) and hoping it will help you. The fourth song is named Producto Toxico. Beginning in that same sad way, Maiello croons "sometimes I like to play guitar, sometimes it gets me very far" setting up the track’s story. It's a tale of debauchery for some time spent in Mexico on tour. The song is almost like a slow paced rock ballad or anthem with its distorted guitars, they build towards the massive chorus and some wonderful guitar solos. Dead Bars excel at the simple things but when they do decide to get a bit fancy they’re pretty good at that too.

Up next is Time Takes Away. This is one of the poppiest sounding songs on Regulars but it is also quite subtle and understated, with the volume of the vocals not really that much higher than the guitars. For the most part of the track, this is trademark Dead Bars’ brilliant simplicity but there are a couple of wonderful guitar solos that bookend the track. Rain is another track where the volume of the Maiello's vocals isn't much higher than the guitars, at times you really have to listen hard to hear them. This gives the song a sad feeling. It's about waking up in the morning, not knowing why you're not at home and wondering how your life has got to this point. My first thought on the song was that it was a little short but the more I listened the more I realised how well this length works. It doesn't overcomplicate the song and really allows the message of the song to sink in.

Lucky is about being excited about going to your favourite bar for the evening. I'm sure this is relatable for anyone reading this. Everyone has a favourite bar/pub/venue where they love to go – mine is the New Cross Inn. I think, because the song is so relatable, it will be a big favourite when Dead Bars play live and will get some big sing-alongs. The track isn't the most uptempo but it's got that brilliant anthemic quality. No Tattoos first appeared on Dead Bars’ 2016 split with Florida's The Tim Version. For Regulars, Dead Bars have given the song a bit of a spruce up in the recording – it sounds much cleaner here making it seem more accessible for new fans. Unsurprisingly the song is about not having any tattoos, the reason being that he doesn't want to remember the things that he has done. What's great about this song is that the band have managed to make quite a mundane topic feel extremely sad, I can't think of many acts that could do this so well.

The ninth song is titled I Need You. Starting off with a big flourish, Maiello sings "I need you, you don't need me" giving you an early sense of the kind of self-deprecating tone to expect from the song. Musically the track takes you on a wonderful journey of highs and lows – at times sounding massive, at times stripping it back and building towards the finale. The penultimate song is named Another Day and is one of my favourites from the album. It's a more positive and upbeat feeling song about appreciating your home and all the great things that are there. I particularly enjoyed the ending of the track where things kind of drop off making you think they are going to build towards a big finale but it never happens. This leaves you wanting so much more. It does lead in nicely to Regulars final track, the five minute epic You Never Left. I like the symmetry with the final song on Dream Gig also being much longer than any song on that album. You Never Left begins with some distorted guitars that truly make you believe that something big is on its way before we transition into the more traditional Dead Bars guitar sound that builds up the first portion of the track nicely, adding different layers as it goes. By the time the vocals come in you're itching to have a big shout-along but Maiello delivers a more refrained vocal performance. This is a track that really does allow Dead Bars to show off what superb musicians they are. You Never Left sounds epic from start to finish and is a strong finish for the album.

Regulars shows some nice developments in the Dead Bars sound. They have somehow managed to maintain that everyman feel that attracted me so much to the band in the first place but have also added a bit of flash to their style as well, really displaying some real progress and something that will help them appeal to a wider audience. If you are new to Dead Bars then Regulars is a great album to introduce you to the band before you go back and check out their previous material.

Stream and download Regulars here: https://deadbars.bandcamp.com/album/regulars-2

Like Dead Bars here: https://www.facebook.com/deadbars/

This review was written by Colin Clark.

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