A little over a month ago, my wife and I went to her parents’. While I was working on my computer (because that is often where I work), I was listening to music (also, because that is often what I do while I work). Most of it was generally folky, but there was some other stuff. Like Dispatch’s newest EP.
Anyone who is not familiar with this EP would think that an odd question. Dispatch has dabbled in funk, rap, reggae and rock, so it is no surprise that on this EP they throw in some folk and ska.
My friend Jer showed me this album just this past summer. The album came out May 17, 2011, making it the first studio recording since they went on hiatus almost 10 years earlier. I had heard some of their stuff before. I learned to play “The General” (arguably their best known song) once, although it’s been a while. Anyway, both Jer and I were very excited to learn they were coming back, even though it was only six songs. Six wonderful songs.
Dispatch was one of the first bands who released their music for free via Napster and LimeWire, making money on merchandise and pay-what-you-want concert tickets. They’re almost like a jam band, but they’re also aware enough to know not everyone wants (or is high enough) to just sit and listen to their self-indulgence. They’re generally rock-ish, but have plenty of reggae, funk and even folk. Both Jer and I were excited that they finally did something that sounded like some straight up ska (because Jer and I are in a band that gets labeled as ska, more or less).
Apparently, the first track is a relatively old song for Dispatch that just never congealed until they were putting this record together. This is the song with which they announced the end of their hiatus.
The first time I heard the steel drums come in on the pre-chorus of Con Man, I was in the parking lot of Taco Bell and literally got the chills. The groove they set up during those four or so lines is just intoxicating. And then the bridge feels like something off a Pink Floyd song. It almost feels like I am flying. While the whole song gets me tapping my feet, the outro of the song gets my blood pumping, too. I wish they would rock out a bit more on that.
While Con Man may have been my favorite song the first listen through, Valentine has grown on me more than the others. Every time I hear this song, I think about being a dad. Mostly because of the last verse:
footprints of forever
suitcase in the hole
holdin’ my hands
watchin’ tears fall
she’s watchin’ them fall
promise of another
it’s better to look right now
scared of what we’ll see
will he have the same face as me?
It is scary and exciting, all at the same time. I have no idea if that is what Pete had in mind when he wrote this. It is a simple little song, and it hits me with a power no other song has for a long time.
Beto rides that line somewhere between reggae and ska. For just a minute in a little bridge, they almost switch to a major key and it is like something welled up inside this political statement and was nearly satiated. I wonder if they did this on purpose.
Chad, at an acoustic gig as part of the Occupy Boston movement, said Broken American is about how the “American dream” has come crashing to a halt. I think it is fitting, then, that the style of the song goes back to roots of American music.
Turn This Ship Around solidly falls into the category of melancholy. It seems as though whomever is singing is consigned to his demise. Its simplicity helps add to that feeling of the acceptance of the impending unknown.
I do not know what precipitated this resurgence of new Dispatch material, but I bet it was a bumpy ride for them, sorting out their feelings and musical priorities. And I sure am glad they got back together.
And if those six songs only whetted your appetite for more, do not fret. They claim there is more to come.