Song Review -DEHD “Stars” from the album Blue Skies
What can I say…I love this band and have been a fan for awhile. I had previously heard “Bad Love” off this album which I believe was an early release on Bandcamp. Having just checked back in and saw this entire album was available I had to jump at the chance to review one song 🙂
This track (and the album as a whole) is a very familiar DEHD song in all of the best ways…slightly eccentric guitar & smooth vocals from Jason Balla, simple & poignant rhythm from Eric McGrady and bellicose vocals & bass from Emily Kempf. Listening to this song puts you in the mood to break out into a hypnotic dance groove.
Sometimes I pause as I am flipping through my music collection, whether it be vinyls, CD’s, digital, etc and have the lucky pleasure of being reminded of a past sonic discovery. My most recent happy moment came after I loaded “all songs” in my digital library and then flicked a finger across my trackpad several times, letting the selections scroll past like slot machine symbols. The screen landed squarely on DEHD’s releases and most particularly their 2019 release “Water.” So yes, we are going back in time for this one even though they do have a more recent, and very fine release, called “Flowers of Devotion.” Backwards to a good memory…
The first time I heard a song off of this record it was “On My Side” and that song has remained a regular visitor to my listening experience, mostly via inclusion on several playlists. It has a warm, familiar feeling when I hear it, one of those fuzzy songs from the past. Even the disconcerting delivery of the lyric “time is on my side,”…works perfectly within the tonal structure of this track. I have also often found myself thinking that this song would somehow have fit in perfectly on the “Pretty in Pink” soundtrack or maybe even “Sid & Nancy”…dated references I know but let me know what you think?
Jumping back to the first track of the album, it leads off with “Wild,” a simple word that is conveyed repeatedly through the song over a demanding, almost breathless drum beat. Next up is “Lucky,” which has a simple, clean start with a nice melody and a notable, and I think very effective, vocal change at the end ….”I long to be, I long to be, I long to be lucky.”
The next track starts very abruptly and features one of my favorite lyrics from this album, “never looking back, oh my baby, a heart attack waits for me when I dream of days past.” That is just good writing if you ask me; stark, clear and evocative. I also like the way the lyrical lines are layered over the guitars ..it is messy but really good.
This is followed by “Do You” and then “Wait,” which has a unique combination of styles and swaying rhythms. The punchy guitar on this one does the job of accentuating the lyrics very well. The vocal differences also play off each other effectively in this composition. The next track is “On My Side” (already discussed) and then “Sunbeat,” which has a cacophony of sounds that mix with a singular drum beat…and works so well in some odd, unexplainable way.
Coming up next on this album is “Push the Crowd,” which has a happy-toned beat that is hiding a darker message. There is also a secondary lyric that knocks around in the background, part of the time in sync with the main lyric and at other times different. I have never quite puzzled out the entirety of that secondary piece which leaves me feeling a little short of understanding. An ongoing mission for the future I guess…
The next three songs are; “Love Calls” (which is the only miss on this release for me as it seems detached and something with which I could not find a connection), “Lake” (I love the guitar in this one), and “Happy Again” (the second song I ever heard by DEHD and one that I believe is a great example of the style and sound for this band).
The next track is my favorite on this record. “Long Way Home” has a bit of the Blasters wrapped up in it (especially in the guitar sound) and is stylistically different from the other songs on “Water”.” The album then finishes up with the eponymous track which is classic DEHD and conveys that special combination of comfort and discord that for me is the foundation of what makes them unique. Those two effects come in waves throughout the song as it switches tone and the simple drum underneath holds all of it together.
Overall, the is a great record and continues to have an impression on me much the same as it did when I first heard it – no one sounds like this band. Their songs are mostly short, direct and have a tone and atmosphere that belongs solely to DEHD.