Presenting For Your Consideration: DANCE FOR THE DYING

27 Aug

Dance1

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like new music.

I know that’s a weird blanket statement to make and I also have to admit that it is not entirely truthful. But, basically, what it means is I don’t listen to the radio. I also no longer have cable, so I don’t watch – oh I don’t know, let’s just say for the sake of argument – MTV. And I didn’t watch MTV when I had cable either. The only channel I ever watched was VH-1. And that’s because they would occasionally actually show music videos; and these would tend to be from the 80s… And I do like that. But, really, I haven’t watched MTV or engaged in the pop music landscape, since the nineties. That’s when I used to be up on whatever was “fresh” and “new” and “happening” and all that stuff.

Then, as the decade wound down to a close, so did my immediate interest in whatever new thing was capturing the musical zeitgeist.

And that was it.

I kept up with whatever the bands I liked were still doing, sure. The internet allowed me to keep up with Moz just fine. I know the Manics came out with a couple of very solid albums (including their, in my opinion, absolute masterwork) long after Richey Edwards died. And, yes, he did die. But I digress because I think I’ve already lost my train of thought.

The point is: I don’t keep up. And, anytime I pay attention to whatever is playing on the loudspeakers at the local mall, or supermarket; or, like, when I worked at TracFone and my boss would put Maroon 5 on his computer and force us all to sit there and fucking listen to it because he was a fucking asshole. And if I’m at a bar and something comes on; or the DJ decides to play something from Black Eyed Peas or that insufferable Panamericano remix that I hate, but I know I’ll wag my head to anyway… Probably to try and ‘hit it off’ with whatever airhead hottie is sitting nearby, sucking on a lollipop or sucking down a Jello shot or just sucking… It doesn’t matter.

Gettothepoint

The point is: I’m not with it. I’m not happening. I don’t dig it.

You dig?

 Now, every now and then, something will slip through the cracks.

A friend of mine will have me listen to Arcade Fire, for instance, and I’ll go: “Oh. Not bad.” Or someone will have me listen to Yeah Yeah Yeahs or The Ting Tings… Or Metric… Yes. I can listen to all of that and think: “That wasn’t so bad. That was actually quite good.”

And I do play Rock Band. That’s how I got to kinda sorta not really but just a little enjoy, for instance, Paramore… Because, when you’re standing there trying to rack up a score, you kind of go with it. No matter what it is. I mean, I even had to play through fucking JUANES and that “Me Enamoro” song or whatever the hell it is. I don’t know the name because I despise that Colombian son of a bitch. I don’t mean to imply that it matters that he’s Colombian. There are cool Colombians. He’s not one of them. He’s a Colombian son of a bitch.

Gettothepoint

The point is I will discover something new from time to time.

Did I tell you about the time I discovered fun.? [sic]

 ForFucksSake

I know it’s considered a crime against humanity to even talk about that successful New York commercial art pop band called fun. [sic] but I’m going to talk about them for a minute because I think it merits discussion.

The point I want to make is I think they’re good musicians and I think they know how to put together catchy tunes and they have teamed up with savvy producers who know how to make that work for them and sell records. The very successful album Some Nights is actually a very listenable recording (save for one or two tracks that are absolute garbage); and the first half of the album, that is to say, the first 4 or 5 tracks in a row, approach something I almost want to call brilliance in its relentless eagerness to please and habit forming intensity. And, whatever you may think about it now, “We Are Young” is legitimately a very well-written, excellently produced and satisfying, feel good pop song.

And I can say all of these things because fun. [sic] didn’t make it big in Bolivia – that landlocked third world country in which I am currently living – and I was not forced to listen to “We Are Young” 24 times a day for 10 months straight. I happened onto it almost by accident, thought it was a visually arresting video and a fun [not sic] song and took it from there.

But I’m bored of Some Nights by now. I haven’t really listened to it in almost six months. It doesn’t matter. Life goes on.

I’ve been listening to something else for the past six months and that’s what I came to discuss with you today…

 AtLast

I have discovered a wonderful band, that I absolutely love to no end and I don’t know how else to keep gushing about them without sounding like an asshole, called DANCE FOR THE DYING

It’s a fucking terrific 4-piece band, based in Washington DC, and it has been providing the soundtrack for my life for what seems as long as I can remember now.

Smitten, I tell you… Absolutely fucking smitten, I am.

I’m not kidding about how aggressively I’ve been trying to force this down the throats of all my friends… “I want you to listen to this great band I’m really into.” “No, seriously, check them out they’re great!” “Hey… Let’s go back to my place with a six pack and listen to this awesome new band I’ve been telling you about!” “You’ve gotta hear them, man!”

It’s become the Breaking Bad or The Wire (or Orange Is The New Black, for that matter) of bands.

And so… Here I go again.

They are not a huge band at all. They have played in several festivals and you can even find YouTube interviews with them and stuff but, chances are, if you’re reading this you most likely haven’t heard of them. Let me assure you, though, that they are the goods. They have landed on my lap at just the right time. At a time in which I needed this kind of music in my life.

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Because there’s something to be said about just good, well executed pop music that reaches down and grabs you in meaningful ways; telling you something about the world…and yourself.

Still with me? Because I realize your eyes may have glazed over at that and I want to assure you I’m dead serious.

On the one hand, I’m actually quite happy they’re not a huge band like, I don’t know…let’s say – for instance – Paramore, because it keeps them real…and grounded.

And close to my heart.

And that’s exactly where I want them.

Then again, it would be nice if they were a little bigger if only because – dammit! – I want my Dance for the Dying t-shirts! And my Dance for the Dying posters! And the souvenir magazine. And I want that shit AUTOGRAPHED, you hear meeee?

fanboy

Because that’s what this feels like. It doesn’t really happen very often that I get this enthusiastic about music. It hearkens back to when I used to actually care about when something came out. Back in the aforementioned decade of the 1990s, when I started purchasing CDs with my own hard-earned cash… The feeling I would get when I heard Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness for the first time and wanted to say that my generation finally had something akin to The White Album.

facepalm

Or when I first heard The Bends and thought, my God, these guys are actually really fucking amazing! You know what I mean? The sheer joy of discovering something new and getting really into it…

Or like when I heard Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t We? and thought – wow, who is this little Irish sprite with that amazing, unique voice?

This was the music I used to be really into in the 90s. That and more… And it really didn’t happen anymore. I really didn’t hear anything that made me sit up and say “hell–OH!” until I heard Dance for the Dying.

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And why is that?

Well… They’re awesome, that’s the first thing. But I think there’s a specific reason for their awesomeness that really happens to connect with me. And I’m not just saying all of this because their bass player – a terrific, multi-talented musician named Brad Cantor – happens to be a close personal friend of mine. Were that the case, this article would be a blip on a much longer piece, in which I talk about a whole bunch of music I’m into right now.

But no. I want to talk about them because I am really fucking, honest to God, balls to the fucking wall enamored with this band.

It starts with the simplicity of it all.

I like how they can be absolutely retro, yet not be in your face about that. By which I mean, it’s retro without specifically calling attention to itself about how retro it is and why.

 hipster

Oh, I suppose they do cop to it a little bit.

If you go on their website and read their bio, it describes their music as something to hear “while roller-skating on laser night.” Now… I actually don’t really have the first damn clue as to what that even means. But it certainly sounds pretty cool. And it sounds very 80s… And, really, the only reason I might not know about it, even though I grew up in the fucking eighties, is because I was never much of a skater. I always fell on my ass.

And then there’s another blurb on their website which says something about “Blondie and The Cure holding hands at the laser show.”

And, again, I’m not sure what that really means. Though, it’s kind of a funny image…. Imagining Robert Smith and Deborah Harry walking hand in hand through a skating rink in Flushing, NY or something. I say Flushing because I associate all my childhood memories of skating rinks with crappy birthday parties I was probably forced to attend at one time or another and they all seemed to take place at some skating rink, or bowling alley, or bowling alley that had a skating rink; and it happened to be in fucking Queens.

 Queens

Anyway… It’s a funny image.

Bob Smith and Debbie Harry holding hands… It’s funny especially because I somehow have the feeling that those two individuals would want to kick each other right in the fucking nuts if they ever actually met in real life.

But, really, I think it’s unfair to even talk about other bands. Because it brings up the need to make a comparison.

And, as we all know, comparisons are odious.

Because the next natural question, after all this gushing about a band you’ve never even heard of, is: well – what the hell do they sound like?

And I could do something like that. I could say the Deborah Harry locking fingers with Robert Smith analogy is kind of apt. And, maybe, if you close your eyes and try to imagine what that might sound like, it would closely approximate the specific and very infectious sound of Dance for the Dying.

I could help you along…

I could say something like: You will be reminded of Peter Hook’s delicious licks when Mr. Cantor begins plucking away at those bass strings. And if you know what I’m talking about, that fact might please you.

Brad Cantor - Bass and Synths.

Brad Cantor – Bass and Synths.

I could say something like: Chris Link pounds away at those drums with all the confidence and electric precision of Steve Morris or Mike Joyce. You might agree that, by placing him with those two gentlemen, I am positioning him in good company.

Chris Link - Drums.

Chris Link – Drums.

I could say something like: Josh Hunter’s riffs and arrangements bring to mind the energy of Johnny Marr back when he had something to prove. And, as hyperbolic as that might sound, you might take it on faith and say to yourself: “Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I go nuts for.”

Josh Hunter - Guitar

Josh Hunter – Guitar

But, you know what? I’m not actually going to do any of that.

Because comparisons are odious and I don’t want you to have preconceived notions about what Dance for the Dying is.

Even that name… It might remind you of Dead Can Dance. You might think: Oh… Is it a Dead Can Dance tribute band? And then you’ll hear them and they sound nothing like Dead Can Dance. It is as far removed from the warbling melodrama of Lisa Gerrard as you can possibly get – and yet – a name like Dance for the Dying carries with it many possible connections. None of which might have anything to do with what the band ultimately is.

See why comparisons are odious?

And what about the lead singer? Well… Her name is M.C. Wolfe.

M.C. Wolfe

M.C. Wolfe

And already your mind paints a picture…

You have images in your head of bands with this pretty standard formation…

Three guys and a girl.

The aforementioned Blondie… They had that configuration. Oh, it was definitely a popular New Wave lineup, wasn’t it? Talking Heads was even like that, except the girl wasn’t the singer. Remember ‘Til Tuesday? (Shame on you and fuck you if you don’t)

Same configuration.

But anyway… You think three guys and a girl and you begin to get ideas about singer M.C. Wolfe.

Does she sound like Gwen Stefani? Does she sound like Debbie Harry? Does she sound like Susanna Hoffs????

None of the above.

You know who she sounds like?

She sounds like M.C. Wolfe.

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And if there is any justice in the world, there is a little girl standing in front of her mirror, using a hairbrush as a microphone and mouthing along to one of her songs; hoping to sound like her when she grows up.

And that basically applies to the whole band. They don’t sound like anything other than Dance for the Dying. Oh there definitely are traces of a musical heritage, like in any good band that recognizes where they’re coming from. And they are most definitely on to something very specific about the sound they want to create.

To date, they have two EPs in release. The eponymous 2011 debut and their 2012 release Puzzles for the Traveler. Together, that’s ten terrific songs you can get from iTunes and listen to your heart’s content. It’s actually interesting to listen to all ten tracks straight through in chronological order because you see a sonic evolution.

 DanceCover

The first EP has them testing the waters with some bouncy, though occasionally hard-edged, numbers… You get a collection of immediately catchy songs. Few albums grab you with their opening track the way this does. With a song called “Echo.” The four remaining tracks follow suit, climaxing with “Death in the Garden,” which is actually rather epic for a pop number and has a partucular hook to it that’s been haunting me for weeks; as well as a slight psychedelic vibe that is very rare and welcome for an 80s pop song.

 PuzzlesCover

Then, Puzzles for the Traveler shows them experimenting a bit, broadening their horizons and enriching their sound. It actually has the complexity of a full length album. And, even though it’s only 5 tracks in length, it plays like the very first “Concept EP” I’ve ever heard. And this is not some pretentious hipster thing. You can go ahead and listen to the songs separately if you want. They’re great songs. The EP opens with “Mannequin,” which was accompanied by a rather on-the-nose video that I don’t really love and won’t link here. But it’s a catchy, solid pop song and a fine way to uncork a record, just the same. The rest of the EP is just one great tune after another – the anthemic and triumphant “Ophelia” is a particular favorite of mine – ending, once again, with a haunting epic number… This one is called “Memento,” and is a sweeping rumination on the bittersweet memories of a relationship long gone.

I realize now that those previous two paragraphs made me sound like Patrick Bateman.

But I don’t care.

I think there’s a place for eloquence in this world; and I’ve decided to apply a little bit of it here, as an affectionate thank you to a band that has provided me with many pleasures over the past year.

I look forward to seeing them perform live someday soon. So that I may race to the front, bop my head, sing along and EMBARRASS myself as I very damn well should. I look forward to that kind of thing on the exact same level as I do for any of the “big” bands I go crazy for. I kid you not. Right now, I would probably be about as excited at checking them out as – oh I don’t know – U2? Is that still cool? I mean. I know their new stuff is, for the most part, garbage, right? But it’s the classics that count and they play about 45 of those anyway, whenever they tour, don’t they?

So… Yeah. If I found out they were playing and I could see them, I’d get excited. That’s what I mean.

But what I really look forward to is seeing them continue to evolve.

Because this is a hell of a terrific start and what these ten tracks tell me is this band has room to grow and places to go. And I look forward to being there, sharing in the experience of that happening.

So… There you have it.

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Ten habit forming tunes you can listen to again and again…

Infectious riffs and joyful arrangements put together by a tight band that play together well and seem to know what they’re doing…

A kick-ass lead singer, with a really cool voice that’s all hers, as well as a knack for playfully suggestive and compelling lyrics… And who actually has the gall to make the KEYTAR cool again.

It amounts to a pretty irresistible soundtrack any day of the week. I don’t know about laser tag or any of that stuff but, for my money, It does what good pop music is supposed to do and maybe even a little bit more.

In this or any era. And wherever the hell you want.

Okay… Gushing over.

Now… Go to their website and check them out for yourselves.

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