By Ryan McConnell
Ever since I came across DMA’S in an issue of the NME around five years ago they have been ever-present on my playlists. First play, first listen – they instantly grasped my attention and that of many others. That whole feeling of hearing something familiar but at the same time distinctively different in its own right. The Britpop influences are clear to hear throughout their music but they are quickly cementing themselves as the flag-bearers for Australian music and have reignited the fire in many music lovers hearts here in the UK.
July 10th sees the release of the bands third studio album and it in itself feels “familiar but distinctively different” to the two previous records. They don’t stray too far from that unmistakable DMA’S sound we have all came to know and love though – and who could ever mistake the outstanding vocals of frontman, Tommy O’Dell.
Teaming up with Grammy award winning producer Stuart Price, the Sydney rockers delve further into their 90’s influences and really offer fans a mixed bag throughout their latest release The Glow.
The first track of the album ‘Never Before‘ comes as the perfect opener on this journey and seems aptly named as the boys make change to their sound with a bigger focus on production to that of ‘Hills End‘ and ‘For Now’. It has a sort of mixed feel of a ‘Screamadelica‘ era Primal Scream and Happy Mondays to it which is of course not a bad thing at all. Who doesn’t like a good groove? Maracas at the ready, folks.
The second track – and the third single to come from the record – ‘The Glow‘ takes off from the previous track with a bit more pace with it’s dreamy riff in the opening, and infectious beat that will have you tapping your hands on the closest available surface in an instant. It is a fairly rousing track and feels like a call to arms to break free and let loose.
Next up is ‘Silver’ which was our first glimpse into the record back in October of last year – I will admit that initially I thought this track wasn’t any better than anything the lads had brought out before it – but now as I’ve had time to live with it, I would genuinely go as far to say it is up there with some of their best work. It is an absolute anthem!
Was anyone fortunate enough to catch them at Brixton before the lockdown? If not – get this version of the track viewed immediately below..
“How do I redefine, all my love for you I guess I, look to the sun with you..”
Got to be one of Tommy’s best vocal performances – and the backing vocals from Matt Mason cannot go unmentioned either.
Track number 4 – ‘Life is a Game of Changing’ – and probably the biggest shock to the system for fans on first listen as they wondered which way the boys were going with their sound. Guitarist, Johnny Took had been on record as saying the band felt like their live shows were missing a few more dancier songs – something that they have corrected with this track in particular. I had my own reservations about it as I heard it for the first time, more in the sense of how was it going to work live? Need not worry though – as again with the available footage from the Brixton gig – the lads seem to have really pulled it out the bag on this one. Everything from the thumping bass and synths on the outset to the continuous floor-filling beat, combined with those signature screeching guitar slides and the infectious vocal build up – “cause all I want for you to see is here and now for life to be..” – make this an epic. I am eager to hear it done in a live setting.
Things slow down with ‘Criminals’ – again, taking on a different sound entirely to the tracks before it. The song eases in on the piano before building up to an interesting brief sort of shuffling of Tommy’s vocals in the production from where it begins to take shape. It is an uplifting number and from around 1:40 onward sort of reminds me of Foster The People.
Next up is ‘Strangers’ which was instantly my favourite song from the whole record. When I first heard it I was a bit taken aback. It is another unexpected change-up but it works brilliantly – I have had it on repeat since I got a hold of the album. Think summertime – long drive on an empty road – windows down – shades on. It is a standout. From the drums to the subtle beat of the bass throughout and everything else in between the production is greatly executed. The track allows Tommy to really bring his voice to the fore.
‘Learning Alive’ is more of a ballad with a slow anthemic build up to its chorus again with Tommy putting his voice on full show. Albeit a great track on its own, it feels a little out of place at this point on the record.
Back in November of last year – seeing the boys support Liam Gallagher on his arena tour – is when I first heard ‘Hello Girlfriend’ and was very intrigued to hear the studio version from that point onward. It picks things back up instantly and is a great sing-a-long track. The drums, the electric and the acoustics all bed into one and work together in an almost harmonious fashion.
Things again slow down on ‘Appointment‘ easing in with a soft jangly riff that briefly harks back to some of their earlier work on ‘Hills End‘. The subtle introduction of piano alongside Tommy’s almost angelic vocal delivery help add to an atmospheric crescendo and a brilliantly worked instrumental bridge.
‘Round & Around‘ we go to the penultimate track – and one of the highlights of the album. It is pure DMA’S. Energetic from the off it continues to gradually build to an all-out frenzy on the chorus with the perfect blend of synths, guitar and beats. This is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser for live shows. I can picture myself right in the heart of a swaying sea of people jumping around and singing along with intent as I listen to it now.
So ‘LIAGOC‘ – as mentioned – was a bit of a surprise when we all first heard it with its dance-style theme and ‘Cobracaine’ sort of takes off in the same fashion, but with a bit more subtlety – although by this point on the record you may not be surprised by it entirely given the diversity already displayed. It is in essence an attempt at a trance anthem filled with piano and synths and the occasional use of auto-tune throughout. This track will inevitably have a few reworked remixes of it in the near future.
In summary – ‘The Glow’ will divide opinion, but it is a fine body of work. A lot of the tracks – in my own opinion – have been tailored towards adding a whole new aspect to live shows, which is exciting for all who follow. Ally Pally in October anyone!? (God willing it goes ahead).
A special mention needs to go out to drummer – Liam Hoskins – who I think doesn’t get the credit to which he is due sometimes. He has produced some of his finest work yet on this record.