I'm positive that I will butcher this quote but here it goes; someone famous and/or important once said, "Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it." I think I really fucked up that line but you get the point, right? History... it seems that lately the music world is jam packed with would be history professors; bands are strip mining the gold from yesterday's mother lode at an unprecedented rate. The Los Angeles, California band, Dialtone, is certainly no exception.
Their new record, No Hang Ups, (get it? Dialtone... No Hang Ups. How clever..) is good yet unoriginal for the most part. It is full of puns, catchy hooks and references that imply that either the songwriters in the band are intellectuals or the songwriters in the band desperately want the listener to believe they are intellectuals when in fact, they really are not. After several spins of the record, I have yet to decide which of these statements are true.
OK then; let's get down to the brass tacks. The drumming of Mike Orea is very good, borderline great. It is heavy when it is called for and delicate when the mood is right. Orea is one of the best indie warriors beating on the skins today. The bass riffs of George Maliale and Paul Orea's guitar playing are quite good but in a small degree fall in line with the imprint laid down by Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) and J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.) but the real thievery slides in with the vocals.
The off-kilter delivery, sometimes out of pitch stylings and phrasing of lead man Paul Orea are techniques lifted directly from the Stephen Malkmus (Pavement) Book of Kooky Attack. This is not wholly a bad thing but again, it goes back to the mimickery rather than originality question. Through most of the songs, I kept thinking that at anytime this tune could go from a Dialtone song to Pavement's " Cut Your Hair" and it would be a smooth transition.
"Summer" is No Hang Ups first single and maybe the only real single on the record. It is driving, infectious and hooks galore; totally worth a listen and probably, a download to the mp3 device of your choosing. The rest of the record is good as well but it is mostly kitschy, well above average fare that's better suited for the bar than the arena.
Dialtone is a quality band with talent enough to make an OK living playing the many college towns with growing music scenes across this country. And that's fine and dandy if that's as far as a band is happy going with their music and career but I suspect that Dialtone would like more. Any band with even the slightest bit of talent wants to have a hit, to be huge, to be " The Next Big Thing" whether they'll admit it or not.
Dialtone have more than a little talent; they are a solid unit with a giant explosion of semi-greatness lurking just below all the cheesiness. But, and this is a HUGE but, if they keep relying on warmed over vocals, and "clever" telephone themed songs that fit with their moniker, I'm afraid that explosion will never happen and they'll keep dialing the wrong number. At least with me.