“It’s time to be a better man“, is a line that passes in a blur of swinging lines from “Romeo”, the opening track of Seeing Green. The latest album from post-punk outfit Dumb is one in a string of prolific releases that we’ve heard in recent months. In just two years the band from Vancouver, British Columbia, have produced no less than three albums. Each one more sharply focused than the last. Each one fueled by the momentum of what preceded. This assessment of personal responsibility, and timeliness, kicks in the door – making an easy route for what’s about to happen.
This opening gambit speaks volumes to the impetus of the sequence. Does it share something of the band’s self-awareness, and the accelerated evolution that they’ve demanded of themselves? Now is the time for self-improvement. You can’t be this prolific and not move forward, and so the propulsion here is incredible.
Lyrically, there’s a no-nonsense poetry that conjures depth from simple addresses. Frontman Franco Rossino levels his pen at the current political landscape and charges himself with staring down the issues. Before he jumps in to the fray of western capitalism he tackles the issue of individualism. “Romeo” is fixed on his own heart, his own wants and desires. Rossino may as well be singing to himself, as to the target of his attack. He knows this. We all have work to do. It IS time to be a better man / person. It IS time to be a better band. Time to address the aspects of culture that need taking down.
Throughout the short time signatures of these fourteen tracks the energy never falls short of explosive. Yes, there are moments of stealth when Shelby Vredik (bass), Nick Short (guitar) and Pipé Morelli (drums) temper the progress, mute volumes, and toy with the dynamic range – but the energy never subdues. But this isn’t a predictable path through the chaos. Sonic cliché is avoided – this isn’t a tapestry of soft-loud-soft-loud that so many other post-punk outfits wrap themselves in. Sometimes the mix will allow for rhythmic passages to melt into a wonderful smudge – not quite a wall of sound – more like a fast-ebbing wave that pulls you out into the mosh. Guitar parts stab, readjust angles, and come at you again. Drums don’t let up, and the bass – often understated, does incredible work of making sense of the danceable elements. Dumb don’t play with volume, they play with expectation, and they play with shapes. It’s great.
There’s an atmosphere of optimism about this album. On one hand Seeing Green can speak of jealousy or of naivety, but it can also speak to the awakening of our own limitations, our own ‘greenness’. What we predict we can prevent. The optimism comes from the ability of the band to mobilize and do combat with the inner and outer demons. And like a guerrilla force the quartet can mobilize fast, carrying munitions, and information under the radar. For all the feelings of confrontation this album also has a very human warmth, a deeply engaging sound that speaks to solidarity with the like-minded. Green is also the color of new shoots. New life.
A track like “Soft Seam” is a jaunty moment where lines are spoken-sung like a letter to an old friend. Instrumentation echoes an old-school production technique, and guitar notes warble off at pleasingly odd trajectories. This thing sounds like something that danced in from the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain recording sessions. However, self-conscious obscurity is avoided and Dumb deliver their more complicated moments with one eye on speaking to as many people as possible. Simplification is key.
The marriage of elements throughout Seeing Green is remarkable. At times contrasting, at times demanding, the vision is remarkably well articulated, and consistent. The cohesive whole is remarkable. A most compelling collection that deserves high praise, and higher volume.
HURRY – LISTEN – DUMB
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PHOTOGRAPH BY IVANNA BESENOVSKY