Do you remember college rock? If you're reading this on your phone or tablet, chances are, the answer is "No."
Let us take a moment and edify you.
There was a brief, shining, ramshackle moment in pop culture, from the late '70s to the mid-'80s, when the musical underground attempted to reconcile the filth and fury of punk rock, the sprawling "anything goes, including the kitchen sink" attack of post-punk, along with the usual chart toppers, blue collar rock, schmaltzy disco, hairy metal and every kind of music from outside of American borders.
This weird n’ wooly mixture would come to be known as "college rock," thanks to adventurous non-commercial DJs on college campuses and their anything goes approach. It wouldn't be uncommon for the stripped down hardcore of Minor Threat to rub shoulder pads with artsy post-punk like Joy Division or Wire. All of these sounds would be recombined, in style if not in sound, in a new wave of musicians, like R.E.M., The Pixies or Sonic Youth.
One of the biggest influences on the nascent college rock scene was known as "The Dunedin Sound" - a skinny, artful take on pop and rock n’ roll. Dunedin, NZ was home to a number of influential indie labels like Flying Nun or Xpressway Records, along with bands like The Chills, The Dwarfs and The Clean. While American and British punks were playing it dirty and drugged-out - being the aural equivalent of huffing glue and spray paint while piercing your forehead with a safety pin - the Dunedin sound played it clean and straight with a distinctive bright, sharp guitar sound that would have widespread implications on the emerging power pop movement.
Depending on your tastes, compared to the bestial fury of punk and hardcore, finally slurring over into grunge, the Dunedin sound can sound either unbearably pretentious and twee, or artful and intentional. The sad fact is that most people never had a chance to make up their own minds. The down side of the idea of progress in music is that once something's out, it's out. Bruce Springsteen fans were not likely to hear The Dwarfs (or The Melvins, for that matter), to decide whether they liked it or not.
That Dead Coin is turning back the clocks, swimming against the current, against all of the musical subdivisions of the past 30 years, and reminding us of the power and potential of clean, agile guitar playing stacked up against warm vocals and a powerful rhythm section. Finally, it seems we can find the intersection between early Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, The Pogues and U2, and decide, once and for all, if we like these sounds or not.
For this reviewer, I very much like the sounds of Something Or Nothing. I'm particularly passionate about the psychedelic potential of clean, ringing guitars, which seem to shine and sparkle like tinsel stretched taut across thin air. Philip Gluckman's vocals sound warm, worn, honest and real (thus all The Boss comparisons, ditto The Pogues), but delivered with an intentional artfulness. The rhythm section of Nick Beat on bass and a rotating cast of drummers help to anchor the changes, turning on a dime, while also giving a powerful propulsive drive, like a churning V8 in a sleek vintage Jaguar.
All in all, this is stripped down, artful rock n’ roll, like what punk once attempted to be. Great stuff for those that like to rock but still like tunes!
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