Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, DEN - 26/4
Dance With Dirt
Written by: TL on 25/02/2016 18:27:14
When Aarhus-based rock quartet Dance With Dirt first committed their work to album, with 2013's "We Are Dance With Dirt", they were fresh winners of the annual, nationwide, state-sponsored band competition KarriereKanonen, and what they presented lived up to that: A searing, energetically rocking debut in the veins of Queens Of The Stone Age, The Strokes and Kasabian, and their live shows walked the walk as well. The breakthrough didn't quite substantiate, however, and so the band have taken their time and only now return with a sophomore built with new methods: The rock'n'roll wildness and overt guitar histrionics have been sucked out, in order to build songs with a strong focus on compelling atmospheres and highly melodious vocal lines.
On those premises, looking at the songwriting, "Marathon" is a rather obvious success. The eleven songs on offer easily stand apart with different identities and moods, and each one has, at the very least, a strong bridge to its name, many of them coming with as strong choruses too. And the subtle diversity makes the record ripe for wide-ranging comparisons to replace the ones that were stuck to the band's debut: Occasional folksy rhythms in "Let Your Fingers Do The Y" and "Drunk Lovers" bring to mind Mumford & Sons or Chris Carrabba's Twin Forks. Rootsy, sunny and carefree tunes like "Heartcase" and "Coming Home" channel timeless and radio-friendly rock like that of Kings Of Leon or Stereophonics. And yet other numbers like "Marathon" and "Living Is Easy" bring to mind distinctly American vibes like those of Lovedrug or Goo Goo Dolls.
Needless to say, the expression is softer than before, and the complaint its easiest to jump to is that Dance With Dirt have abandoned their power, effectively making music your sweet mother can also sing along to. At worst, though, that makes for some slightly light-weight, yet still plenty infectious tunes in namely "Let Your Fingers Do The Y" and "Heartcase". As soon as you reach the mid-section of "Marathon", "Living Is Easy" and "Coming Home", however, such considerations are easily forgotten, as especially the former two are just great, well-wrought songs, with the title track figuring to etch itself into the singalong-centre of your brain particularly quickly and staying there for weeks.
The band's devoted focus on great melodies and subtle compositions has in fact paid off, as the songs are generally elaborated just enough to feel lively the whole way through, and while singer Magnus Jacobsen's voice doesn't glow as white hot on here as earlier, the excellent recording lets you feel the full texture of his singing, as he mostly strains gently against the ceiling of both his chest voice and falsetto. That being said, you do wonder if we couldn't have had our cake and eaten it too? Taking a starting point in building songs with strong melodies and deft arrangements only seems prudent, but both album highlights "Marathon" and "Snow Machine" - and indeed the record as a whole - feel like a little extra power and energy to top things off would only have made the impact even better.
The overall takeaway then, is that Dance With Dirt have mastered a much more detailed and minimalistic songwriting than previously, which makes for a super catchy and enjoyable album. It dwindles a bit in quality towards the end, and particularly the instrumental finale of "Wave Fabula" feels like an unnecessary bone thrown to guitarist (and frequent Gaffa.dk reviewer) Kristoffer Veirum, whom you must imagine must have dug deep for a softer side of himself on here - considering his tendency to shred bare-chested and recklessly at prior live shows. The highlights are strong indeed, though, and one only really hopes that we can have similar songs with a bit of the old power next time around - but also that Dance With Dirt find the wider appreciation they deserve already this time around.
Download: Marathon, Snow Machine, Coming Home, Living Is Easy
For The Fans Of: Kings Of Leon, Mumford & Sons, Goo Goo Dolls, Go Go Berlin
Release date 26.02.2016
AEM Records / Sony DK