2018, LP

I think it’s safe to say that humanity, in general, is infatuated with the concept of nostalgia. The reliving of a time long past as escapism from your present is something almost every individual has taken part in at least once in their lifetime.

This intrinsic desire certainly extends to music. All the time music genres and styles thought tired and gone are being revived and reworked in some obscure urban art district by a bunch of rowdy teens with nothing better to do. In the United States in particular there has always existed the idea of treading on old forms of American music, such as the golden age of jazz or the bittersweet lamentations of Civil War-era bluegrass.

Brooklyn’s Dommengang is certainly not the first group to recreate 70’s blues rock for the modern day, and when they emerged seemingly out of the blue with their 2015 debut Everybody’s Boogie they weren’t exactly hailed as the most original band out there playing blues revival. The general consensus was that Dommengang created a certainly fun piece of music, but for all the talent it had in bucket-loads it also suffered from a lot of sameness and contrivances. Three years later, Love Jail makes its debut as the band’s sophomore album, and still continues the laid groundwork and, to an extent, the problems of its predecessor.

Love Jail is an album certainly in love with 70’s rock aesthetics all the way from the heavy psychedelia a la Blue Cheer to the electric blues of Muddy Waters. It shows its colors proudly through its audibly boastful basslines, bluesy guitar solos and fast-paced and highly technical drum fills. The opener ‘Pastel City’ opens the album out on a colorful, explosive bang with a driving guitar groove and excellent vocal delivery by Sig Wilson. It should be mentioned that drummer Adam Bulgasem is an absolute tour-de-force on ‘Pastel City’, and his performance on it may outshine every other track on the album. ‘Lovely Place’, the more suave, swaggering second track is nearly on par with the first as its boogieing psych rock opening eventually breaks into a fiery gallop in its second half. The first half of the album is generally pretty enjoyable and entertaining, but following the spacey instrumental ballad title track the album begins to slump somewhat. The songs begin to get much more samey or become plain bores to listen to. ‘I’m Out Mine’ has a basic drum hook and an extremely weak vocal performance to boot, with the heavy guitar being its solitary strength keeping it afloat. ‘Going Down Fast’ incorporates elements of power pop into the equation and, while I commend them for trying something different, it sounds extremely out of place amongst its blues brethren. The biggest highlight of the side two would have to be the closer ‘Stay Together’ which not only sort of reworks the title track’s aesthetic with a new brush-led drum pattern and more spacey guitar soloing, but also wraps the fairly ferocious album in a Floydish bow.

I think it would be dishonest to say Dommengang made an explosive and creative change in their sound in the three year gap between their two albums. This is because it’s clear the band is one that runs on a tight formula that rarely and likely will rarely venture outside of their already established blues-rock-revival sound. For what it is though, Love Jail is about as confident a followup as I think the band could make, no matter how uneven it might be.

Written by Thatcher Dickason for The Frying Pan.
More reviews by Thatcher:
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