Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Album Review: Die! Die! Die! – Promises, Promises

New Zealand is a far-away land that has made vastly under-appreciated contributions to good music, both past and present. One of my favorite Kiwi bands, Die! Die! Die!, has been making inroads in the States over the past two years, and their fantastic sophomore album Promises, Promises should help them break on through to the other side.

What drew me to Die! Die! Die! initially was the band’s brash, recklessly brazen post post-punk sound, so loud that even listening to the debut album at a respectable volume probably goes against healthy decibel levels. The combination of singer Andrew Wilson’s howl and the thrashing guitar, bass, and drums came together to form the perfect storm of jarring resplendence. I loved the debut album to pieces, and when I discovered that album #2 was out and about, I tracked it down for immediate consumption.

There is much of the familiar Die! Die! Die! noise on Promises, Promises. But it bears mentioning that the production is much glossier, smoothing away many of the rough edges I grew fond of while getting to know the band’s music. Despite the more obvious production, though, the band is just about as abrasive and razor-sharp as ever.

Opener “Blinding” is typical Die! Die! Die!; Wilson in full brat vocal mode, ripping the hell out of his guitar in the process, and Michael Prain beating the life out of his drums. You’ll find this to be a recurring theme throughout the album. The songs on Promises, Promises run longer than on the debut, which allows for more time to notice how awesome everything sounds. Say, for example, that one particularly scathing riff at the near halfway point and near end of “Britomart Sunset,” and Lachlan Anderson’s wicked bassline that acts as a nice foil to the cutting guitar. “Sideways Here We Come” makes me smile for its’ Smiths-ian title, but it’s also fairly unlike previous Die! Die! Die! songs. Its’ slower tempo and sense of control signal maturation, but the presence of Wilson’s shouts reminds you who exactly who you’re listening to. “Whitehorses” is one of my favorites, planets aligning for a bittersweet, almost pretty sound, which you won’t often hear about a Die! Die! Die! song. Like much of their material, it deals with the shitty side of relationships. Anderson’s bass is the star of the show here, steady and taut. The title track is another standout, given a solid backbone by the slightly sinister bass, and Wilson’s almost plaintive refrain “I just want what I was promised/just what I was promised.” The end of the album, “Blue Skies,” is a familiar song to folks who have seen the band live over the past couple years. It’s been chopped down to just under four minutes, and given a good scrubbing, but it’s still as strident as ever.

After listening to Promises, Promises many times now, I can heartily endorse it as a worthy purchase. Though really, it'll only take one listen to get hooked. If you, like me, sometimes find yourself craving bands that are unabashedly noisy and fucking rock, you can’t go wrong with Die! Die! Die!.

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